I remember as a teenager listening to Arlo Guthrie talking about the comparisons we make with others when we are feeling bad. For instance, when we say to someone who is having a bad day or a difficult time, “Well, don’t feel so bad, at least you aren’t like so and so who….(you pick the appropriate difficult circumstance).” While I’m not suggesting this is a very helpful way to comfort a person feeling low. Arlo took the concept a little further. He wondered aloud, “But what about the last guy? Nobody’s got it worse than that guy. Nobody in the whole world.” It was kind of a provocative thought for me to take in, (especially at 16!). Who has it the worst? Who is the last guy, the last person?
Well at 60, I still don’t know if I could identify Arlo’s “last person.” I’m not sure who that person might be today. But the sad reality is that there is no shortage of candidates. There are millions of children who are hungry, there are millions affected by deadly diseases, and even more tragic, millions more affected by diseases that are treatable, but who find themselves in places or situations where the medicines to help them are simply not available. There are homeless, lonely people all around us. There are lots of “last” people in need.
At our house this week we with gather with 20 or so family members from a variety of places in the world, to celebrate Thanksgiving. A wonderful and appropriate thing to do. We will feast and laugh and have, what I trust will be, a rich time together. And again, that’s a good thing! Jesus feasted and celebrated at times, and it is my sincere hope that you will have some opportunity to be together with some special people in your life, sharing some level of feast and thanks giving for the gifts and the blessings of your life.
But as we give thanks, may we do so remembering the needs around us. May we do so with an eye towards those who find themselves, for a variety of reasons, and from a variety of perspectives, in that category of “lasts.” May we take the opportunity in the days ahead, to find ways, as individuals, as congregations, as people who follow Jesus, to make a difference in the lives of the folks in need around us. May we choose to engage the needs of those in all our spheres of influence with practical resources and with the love of Jesus Christ. May we do it all so that our giving thanks tomorrow will not simply be an exercise in celebrating our blessings, but rather a fresh reminder that we are always blessed so that we might be a blessing to others.
Thanksgiving blessings to you all,