The Carolina way to give thanks

Published November 29, 2013

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, November 28, 2013.

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 dollars 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.

November 29, 2013 at 8:45 am
TP Wohlford says:

My head is spinning with the about-face in this article.

First, we highlight settlers who braved any number of hardships, worked physical labor far beyond the imagination, if not ability, of modern people. And THEY WERE THANKFUL! Why? Because, among other things, they had FREEDOM.

The, this article does an about face, to talk about "food insecurity." And then some obscure mention of a Papal work that itself fails to understand the basics of economics. All of which hinting, of course, that the government needs to take care of these people.

Say WHAT??? Last I checked, until recently, the "mountain people" would rather DIE than take charity. And in fact, arguably, many did. And we gave them a grudging respect, wondering if some of that couldn't transfer to, say, our urban and town culture, where people think that welfare is a birthright!

You see, those people who would rather work hard and die young than to take welfare understood something that, perhaps, has escaped the grasp of many modern people -- that there is a TRADEOFF between security and freedom. If you want someone to take care of you, say goodbye to your freedom. And in fact, after a while, both are gone, because nothing on earth can take care of people who have lost the motivation, and the ability, to take care of themselves.

November 30, 2013 at 11:47 am
john long says:

TP's comments above are on track. Tom - the self-sufficient who teamed up to assist neighbors wouldn't send a cent or smoked ham to a far off organization. They instinctively knew that lending a helping hand to a sick neighbor, or helping raise a new barn when the old one burned to the ground, was how to get someone back on their feet.

Today's 'charities' more likely feed the dependency rather than ween the 'needy'. Even the bible tells us to give alms "To the poor", not to some huge, far-off organization. Real help is ALWAYS one-on-one.

And what's with the bit about some increasing gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. Are you trying to plant some kind of guilt trip? If I'm going to do good, it's not because you made me feel guilty. Wrong motivator for people who really care.

I would like just once to hear/read something that made REAL sense. You had a great start - but the wheels came off...