Feeding the Hungry

THANKSGIVING is local in origin - a band of New World pilgrims gathered around a table, pronouncing themselves a family.

But in 1992, the American Thanksgiving cannot remain local in concept - there are too many pilgrims across the globe with no table to congregate about, and little food in any case for them to spread upon the table.

Even if the holiday were known to them, what would Thanksgiving mean to the displaced wanderers of Somalia or Bosnia, searching for safety and sustenance?

It is up to those who measure Thanksgiving by the plumpness of the turkey, the richness of the pumpkin pie, the number of people present - the cornucopia factor - to connect the traditional feast with the pilgrims of 1992 who make up the starved exiles in hostile lands, not to mention the homeless at home.

Thanksgiving at its best has always been, first and foremost, a ceremony of sharing rather than a marathon of lip-smacking consumption. It is the invited guests, the outsider pilgrims, who subtly enlarge and ennoble the definition of family at the Thanksgiving table.

Seldom have there been so many candidates for the guest list, from the four corners of the earth. The pilgrims of 1992 - as far-flung as the boats off Haiti and the boats off Vietnam - have made this a year vividly beseeching in extraordinary needs, almost as if every day could serve as a Thanksgiving poster. And why not?

The portraits of refugees on the nightly news are the absent guests for whom Thanksgiving hosts and hostesses would have to set a table as wide as the world.

Let these outcasts be present, at least in thought, this Thursday, not as dampeners of the feast but as reminders that the ultimate reward as well as the ultimate justification of Thanksgiving is to feed the hungry with food and something more - all year around.

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