When we think of Thanksgiving, we often think - and rightfully so - of families. We may visualize in our minds the huge family dinner with parents, children and grandchildren gathered around the dinner table, laden with the good foods of life.
And when we think of Christmas, our thoughts also are usually turned to our families, as we build traditions and enjoy each other during this special time of the year.Holidays and families go together. In the United States, the week of Thanksgiving is National Family Week, so proclaimed by the President of the United States. But the week of Christmas could, in reality, also be family week just as well.
We usually remember the good times of Thanksgiving and Christmas not because of a great feast we ate or because of a certain gift we received, but because we enjoyed these special days together as a family.
Unfortunately, however, countless numbers of people - in and out of the Church - don't have the opportunity to enjoy such holiday occasions with families.
There may be the elderly who are alone, those whose families have left home and may not be close enough in miles to visit or close enough in spirit to care about their aged parents. Sad, indeed, is the situation where the elderly are forgotten or neglected for any reason.
There are those who may be away from home and family, perhaps with the military serving in far-off places under extreme conditions, or away to school and because of distances or finances may not be able to come home. Being away from home, particularly during special holidays, can be a lonely time.
There are those who may be "cut adrift" from their families because of their negative lifestyles. Living contrary to one's teachings can be a lonely existence. But sometimes people are alienated from their families because their families won't accept them when they do something good. Some converts, for instance, find acceptance in their own families very difficult after they embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are those who are single, whose parents may no longer be living or too far away, and who have no family members to share the joys of such holiday occasions. There are the widowed and divorced, those who are living alone because of situations often not of their own making or choosing.
And, then, there are the homeless who really have no home to go home to, and the imprisoned who are not free to go home.
For some, the holiday season is a time when we enjoy so many of the blessings of life, a time of happiness and joy where family memories are created, where family traditions are carried on. For others, the season is a time of need, of loneliness.
Some of the situations in life in which we find ourselves are caused by our own decisions, but others are the result of none of our doings. Whatever the reason may be, it is truly sad for any to be lonely or in need.
As we give thanks during this special time of the year for our great blessings, we should be mindful of the feelings and concerns of those who are isolated from family and loved ones or lonely for whatever reason, and then do something about it. There is much we can do.