Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Give thanks with acts of kindness

By Donna Brazile
updated 6:52 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
On this Thanksgiving, donate food or volunteer your time to help those less fortunate, says Donna Brazile.
On this Thanksgiving, donate food or volunteer your time to help those less fortunate, says Donna Brazile.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Millions of Americans are living in poverty and hunger
  • Brazile: As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we can do more to help the less fortunate
  • She says you can volunteer at your local food bank or help with a food drive
  • Brazile: Let's give thanks with acts of goodness and kindness, appropriate to the day

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- When the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 16,000 earlier this month, headlines throughout the country trumpeted the milestone as a sign of recovery for the economy.

Away from Wall Street, among the working poor in America's suburbs, small towns and larger metropolitan areas, the trumpets of a thriving economy do not sound. What we too often hear in the back streets and even on some main streets is the drumbeat of the desperate, or the plaintive strings of hope postponed.

Eventually, the jobs will come. Knowing the resilience of America, sooner than the naysayers expect or the obstructionists would like. We are a nation of workers. Let there be work and we will do the work.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Until the jobs come, though, and even with some of the jobs -- minimum wage, and even above, that do not pay enough to cover the necessities -- people are still hungry. Many people have been hungry for a long time.

Unsurprisingly, the recession ushered in with it an increase of people (70% since 2007) being served by the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau tells us that a record 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty in 2011. That's more than 1 in every 7 Americans.

On November 1, families throughout the country felt the sting of at least $5 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, cuts that arrived with the expiration of the boost it received in the 2009 stimulus package. To make matters even worse, proposals in Congress would make additional cuts to the food stamp program, perhaps as much as $40 billion.

Where in God's heaven is the safety net?

The Dow's record notwithstanding, clearly millions of Americans, many of them children, continue to struggle and go hungry. As we celebrate Thanksgiving 2013, things also look bleaker for the 49 million Americans who experience hunger.

Typically, I pause at this time of the year to praise the work being done by the people and organizations on the front lines in the fight against hunger. I also encourage all of us, especially young people, to stand up and volunteer or chip in now and through the rest of the year.

I am doing so again this year. Yes, please donate your extra canned goods, baked goods, money, time or whatever you can spare.

But this year I want to add something. A perspective. A call to action. An act of faith.

Let me begin with a perspective. There's a haunting poem by Emily Dickinson titled, "I had been hungry all the years." I won't quote it in full -- I can't do it justice here. But the second stanza so captures the feeling of hunger, and the emotional emptiness that follows, that I must share it with you:

T'was this on tables I had seen

When turning, hungry, lone,

I looked in windows, for the wealth

I could not hope to own.

What must it be like to be outside looking in, not at a table of steak and wine, but at a bench of bread and water, and not have the pennies to enter there?

So this year I will ask you to add something, by volunteering at your local food bank or helping with a food drive in your community. This year, I also ask that you take the time to deliver a message to your state lawmakers, city councilor or member of Congress on behalf of the millions of people in our country who go hungry. The message is your own, but make sure the elected leaders hear from you that a nation so rich can do better for its poorest citizens.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

Hunger has no ideology. It does not respond to party or to rant. Hunger, in short, is not a red state/blue state problem. According to Feeding America, hunger rates are the worst in Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia. They are followed immediately by North Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and California.

Hunger in America is an American problem. The hunger of one should be the concern of all. Especially the hunger of children -- our children.

Speaking of children, we have spent a lot of energy in recent years demanding more of our schools, our teachers and our students. Rightfully so, for if our nation is going to be globally competitive, these are improvements we have to make. But consider for a moment that as many as 16 million of our young people go to school uncertain of where or whether they will have dinner. We are asking them to think, but what can they think about if they have no food? We are asking them to learn, but how can they learn on a constantly empty stomach?

Thursday is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was, and is, an act of faith -- in fellowship, in God's providence, in tolerance. But faith is nothing if it is only words, or confined to a sentiment. We must give thanks with more than words. We must give thanks with acts -- acts of goodness and kindness, appropriate to the day.

We must share the harvest.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT