By Sid Miller
Texas Agriculture Commissioner
Howdy neighbors! This holiday season, Texans will be honoring their treasured Thanksgiving traditions. Some of these traditions might include turkey and dressing, a big slice of pumpkin pie, and cherished time spent with relatives and good friends. You might even catch some of your family members gathered round to watch the Dallas Cowboys football game or out and about on Black Friday, officially kicking off the Christmas shopping season. I know I am looking forward to some quality time with the ones I love.
Did you know that the modern-day Thanksgiving celebration Americans recognize today can be credited to President Abraham Lincoln, who initiated the tradition in 1863 with a presidential proclamation during the Civil War?
In his proclamation, President Lincoln asked that God “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged…”
Just as Lincoln intended 158 years ago, Texans should use the week of Thanksgiving to serve and assist those less fortunate – specifically veterans, active military soldiers, and their families. There are numerous ways to help our fellow Texans this holiday season. If you are looking for a way to support our service members, VeteransAdvantage.com is a great resource.
I encourage all Texans to volunteer at local food banks to help those less fortunate have a delicious and memorable holiday meal. You may also find that food pantries are often much closer and can be just as helpful. Let’s face it, in this busy season they could all use a little extra help.
Many of these organizations help fill the gap for underprivileged young Texans who depend on their schools for two meals a day. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I’m responsible for the nutrition and healthy eating of Texas school children statewide; ensuring that every Texas child gets a nutritious meal is a top priority for me. Many Texas families rely on food banks and food pantries to put food on the table during the holidays. When you support your local food banks and food pantries you are also supporting your fellow Texas brothers and sisters. If you’d like to donate, go to food-banks.org.
As Texans pour into stores to start Christmas shopping on the traditional Black Friday, they will find those familiar red kettles at thousands of Texas retailers. The Salvation Army tradition of the red kettle and their bell ringers dates to 1891. Last year red kettles raised almost $119 million to help those in need during the Christmas holidays. When you’re out shopping, consider rounding up your purchase: if you spend $21.50, for example, round up to $22.00 and put that fifty-cent balance into one of those red kettles.
Many Texas retailers use the roundup to the next dollar method to donate millions to worthy causes. It’s so easy to say yes, and your donation along with those of millions of your fellow Texans will make a world of difference, perhaps bringing Christmas to a foster child spending their first holiday away from home – as many law enforcement agencies do through their Blue Santa and Brown Santa programs. Look for those donation opportunities as well.
There are many ways to give and many ways to help others so we can celebrate in the spirit of President Lincoln. He observed that, “They are the gracious gifts of the highest God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
We should do the same for Texans less fortunate than ourselves. I’ll end with this cowboy prayer by Steve Lucas: “So Lord on Thanksgiving as we take a break from our chores, we thank you for this year’s blessings and for what you have in store.”
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
An eighth-generation Texas farmer and rancher, Sid Miller is the 12th Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture. He is an 18-time world champion rodeo cowboy.