By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
It’s almost “Thanksgiving” again at Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, and only shelter for homeless families.
It’s hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving Day will mark the 29th successive year we have shared the blessing of Thanksgiving with Albuquerque’s many homeless and abused women and homeless families.
I’m so thankful to the Lord and our wonderful family of donors for helping make this ministry of compassion possible on an ongoing basis.
Thanks to YOU, during 2014 we have been able to serve many thousands of hot and nutritious meals to hungry people, minister to many spiritually needy men, women, boys and girls in our chapel services and life recovery classes and provide thousands of nights of shelter to homeless people.
I wondered what difference Joy Junction really makes in the life of some of our guests. Cynthia said it feels good because she finally has a family. She said she hasn’t had a Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years. Your support means she will get one this year.
Niki said she is happy to be in the shelter’s life recovery program, and is very grateful that she will have a home during the upcoming holidays.
Jacklynn told us she’s glad to be in a place where people really appreciate being fed during Thanksgiving. She added that during the holiday season while staying at Joy Junction, she wants to help by somehow giving back.
Joy said she’s happy to have a place to stay for Thanksgiving. She hopes that everyone at Joy Junction can be grateful for what they have here.
At Joy Junction on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the holiday season, as we provide special meals and activities for our homeless guests, we will be giving thanks to the Lord for all of His blessings. We are a faith-based ministry. We believe that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important component for homeless people in getting back on their feet again.
But not everyone sees things the same way as we do. For many people, “Thanksgiving”is not a time to give thanks to God. Take, for example, these Thanksgiving “offerings” I found a number of years ago on America on Line, billed as “All the Essentials for a Stress-Free Holiday.”
Encouraged to “sit back and relax,” AOL surfers learned that they could find “advice on roasting a perfect bird, crafts for the kids, ideas for giving back, hints for handling holiday stress, tips for avoiding the travel crush and much more.”
However, if you didn’t go any further than the stress section, you’d have missed a lot. There were a couple of forums on this AOL Thanksgiving special, one titled “Thanksgiving’s Best and Worst,” and another giving surfers the opportunity to say what they were most thankful for.
I was curious to see what people loved and hated about Thanksgiving, so I went over first to Thanksgiving’s best and worst. I got an inside look at what was on the minds of some Americans that year.
Here are some examples of what I read. One forum participant wrote, “Thanksgiving is easily the most boring day of the year.”
Someone else commented, “Every year, my house (which is always neat and tidy) gets ‘trashed,’ even after I’ve told my in laws and their kids repeatedly to respect me and our house. My husband sits by and doesn’t say a word. I can’t turn them away, because they come from out of state and my husband thinks they do no wrong. I’m ready to move to Alaska where I know they’d never visit.”
The saddest post of all was from someone who wrote, “This is my first Thanksgiving without my husband of 25 years. He left me and our five kids (earlier this year) and served me with dissolution papers (soon after).”
However, what a testimony that this woman was still grateful for the blessings that she had. She continued to write “Through this horrible experience, I pray my Thanksgiving is filled with the gratitude and offerings to God that it should be. I am thankful for the gifts I have received, but pray that God’s will is to return my husband to me and our children. I would appreciate any prayers, silent or aloud at your Thanksgiving table for the healing of my family and all other families enduring pain and heart ache.”
Examples of people writing about what they were most thankful for included an inspiring post from someone who doesn’t mind getting older. She wrote, “I used to dread growing older, but now I actually feel as if I can embrace it. When I was younger it was always a case of watching after the kids, stressing over everything always being ‘perfect’, trying to prove myself to everyone but now I have grown to be thankful I had those times … I (also) have many things to look forward to.”
However, the letter that really touched my heart was a daughter’s tribute to her dad. She wrote:
“My father passed away this year. He was a quiet gentleman. I learned much by his words but far more by his actions. He served his country during WWII. He did not speak much about his experiences. Instead he flew our country’s flag proudly, reverently. His eyes welled up with tears when he stood for our national anthem. He stood even to the day he needed my mother on one side and myself on the other. He placed flags on the grave sites of each of my brothers, who also served our country. My father is a genuine patriot; his legacy lives on through all that knew him. I love you daddy, and I’m thankful and proud to be your daughter.”
Some forum participants also remembered the essence of Thanksgiving. Someone wrote, “I am thankful for the Lord for giving me good health and all my children home and in good health and His mercy.” Another person commented, “I am most thankful for allowing Christ to be my guide. I am also thankful for my mental and physical health. I give God all the praise.”
After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about, isn’t it? In case you are not familiar how the day came into existence, here’s a quick synopsis.
It was way back in 1789 that President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. This was the first ever presidential proclamation issued in the United States and read, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…”
However even back then, not everyone was in favor of this National Day of Thanksgiving. It took 74 years and President Lincoln to set things straight. In his 1863 proclamation, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
After describing America’s blessing, Lincoln wrote, “No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Lincoln also encouraged his fellow citizens that while praising the Almighty for his blessings they also needed to exercise “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience … and to fervently implore the (intervention) of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”
Since that time, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by every President. So as we get closer to Thanksgiving Day, take a moment and thank the Lord for the many blessings which we enjoy.