Thanksgiving is upon us. So too is the famous shopping day Black Friday. It’s also the anniversary of a great American initiative. This one started after World War II when Americans fed a “silent guest” at their holiday meals.
It was dreamed up by a former aspiring actress named Iris Gabriel. She gave up on Hollywood only to find her biggest role was in feeding the starving people in the war devastated countries in Europe.
At Thanksgiving on 1947 Americans were asked to imagine taking in one of the world’s hungry to their holiday celebration. They could mail the cost to feed that “silent guest” to a committee in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the home of Thanksgiving. A CARE package was then sent to a hungry person overseas.
The “silent guest” plan was endorsed by governors around the country including Robert Bradford of Massachusetts, a descendant of the Pilgrims.
As this Thanksgiving and Black Friday approaches, there are two huge emergencies ongoing in the Middle East and the Philippines. The war in Syria has left millions displaced and hungry. The colder temperatures are moving in too making relief even more difficult.
The super typhoon Haiyan has destroyed whole communities in the Philippines, leaving them without food, water or housing. The United Nations says 11.5 million people are affected by the Typhoon and 544,606 people are displaced. Food, clean water, medicine and shelter are desperately needed. Hunger, malnutrition and disease will escalate among the population unless aid arrives in time. The storm’s impact can last long past the event itself.
At this very moment Catholic Relief Services is helping provide emergency shelters. This is especially crucial with the risk of more rains coming.
So this holiday season help a ‘silent guest” by donating to a humanitarian agency like Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Food Programme, UNICEF and at your local food bank.
And you can also donate without opening your wallet by using the free hunger fighting app Charity Miles or playing the online game FreeRice.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday should be about sharing. For only by doing so can we have a world of peace, goodwill and hope.
This commentary originally appeared at the Orange County Register newspaper.