Two hundred years ago, long before the days of parades with helium-filled balloons, marathon football games and “Black Friday,” a brave group of settlers came to North Carolina looking for a better life.
I’ve been re-reading Inglis Fletcher’s wonderful Carolina Series of historical novels, first published in the 1940s. Fletcher did extensive research and throughout these books we learn what life was like for those who first came to this “Goodliest Land.” Without the conveniences of indoor plumbing, electricity, central heat, preventive medicine or stores, they spent long hours working to overcome storms, disease and hostile people. Travel was difficult, disease was rampant, communication was poor; few lived beyond their fifth decade. If they didn’t have something they did without or made it.
These Carolina colonists persevered hardships we can’t even imagine, but Fletcher writes of a people who were thankful for freedom, for opportunity, who enjoyed simple pleasures. They were proud of their hard work as farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, lumberjacks, fishermen, wheelwrights or shopkeepers and were equally proud of their personal accountability and honor. When family or a neighbor was sick or encountered hard times it was their personal responsibility to help.
We don’t have to look hard to see how we have strayed from many of those values. Most of us no longer have to physically work hard. In fact, too many think themselves above physical labor. Situational honesty and ethics, craftiness and the ability to beat the system are rewarded. Selfishness and greed too often take the place of personal accountability.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that North Carolina ranks fifth among the states with food insecurity; too many people are worried whether they will have enough to eat. In a land and a time when we produce more than enough food it is inexcusable for anyone to go hungry.
We often don’t see neighbors, co-workers or others around us who need help either because we aren’t looking or believe that by paying taxes to a government that provides food stamps and other assistance we are doing our part. But these programs do not relieve us of our personal responsibility and evidence indicates the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis, in outlining the mission statement for his papacy wrote, “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” His exhortation applies beyond the church to each of us throughout the culture.
The American Research Group reports that the average person will spend $801 on gifts this Christmas season and it is wonderful we are willing and able to purchase and give to others. But as we sit at tables loaded with food and give thanks for our many blessings, let us also give thanks for those who came before us.
Perhaps the best tribute we could pay them would be in returning to the personal responsibility of sharing with others by making meaningful gifts to The Salvation Army, Food Bank or other reputable charity.
That is the historical and should be the current Carolina way of giving thanks.
Campbell is the executive producer and moderator of NC SPIN, a weekly panel discussion on state issues that airs on WMYT “MY TV12” at 10 a.m. on Sundays and on WJZY “CW46” at 6:30 a.m. and 11:05 p.m. on Sundays and on WFMY-TV at 5:30 a.m. Sundays.