Thanksgiving is not always what it should be, don’t you think? For all that hard work, it sometimes ends up being just a rush to put a lot of food on the table, and awkward interactions with distant relatives who you would otherwise avoid. Others are more fortunate. For them Thanksgiving is the warm feeling of sitting around a table, being with each other. And of course there is all that history to consider. I’ve heard it described all kinds of ways. The Pilgrims (actually a mix of pilgrims and adventurers) and the Indians (Native Americans makes more sense) and plenty of food. Looking back you might be grateful for the perseverance of those settlers, over a long stretch of water and starving throughout a harsh winter that killed so many. Or feel gratitude for the Native Americans who, though not the perfect new neighbors, chose to teach the settlers survival in a new world…settlers who had essentially invaded their land.
Whether you’re a descendant of early European settlers, new or just a few generations American, a result of the very first Americans, or a combination (like my family), there is something to be thankful for. Last year I celebrated two Thanksgiving dinners – one in Australia, one in New Zealand – and realized that thankfulness is about more than where you are or what country issues your passport.
But amid thankfulness and thoughts of origin there is also the bone-chilling truth that for many people, Thanksgiving Day is just another day of slavery. Labor and sex trafficking exist around the world. 20-30 million mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters will not be sitting around a table thankful for safety or abundance. For what must also be millions who are vulnerable to human trafficking, it may also be the last Thanksgiving Day before their lives change.
Maybe that sounds a little dramatic, but imagine what I’m saying for a moment. Imagine that it’s the last Thanksgiving Day (regardless of country) before what has probably already been brewing in their lives comes to fruition. For those vulnerable to being trafficked, it could be the last before they are reduced to property. For those vulnerable to becoming traffickers, the last before the kind of evil that sells another human being is given a space in their hearts. For those vulnerable to fueling demand for trafficking, it’s the last Thanksgiving Day before their lust, or greed, is given official right-of-way.
I believe God loves celebration. I know that He loves gratitude, and freedom. He hates injustice. Reconciling all of this at once is the tricky part. Can you accept both Thanksgiving and modern day slavery – simultaneously? Or must you choose to enjoy the holiday, or feel guilty that you’re free and others are not?
Celebration sometimes means recognizing the dark things happening, but refusing to give quarter to them. Here are three ways you can do something about human trafficking at Thanksgiving dinner:
- Talk about it.
While it may not be your typical Thanksgiving table conversation, it is the truth. When you go around the table sharing what you’re thankful for, share the truth about slavery – it still exists, even in “modern” and “first world” countries like America, Australia, and New Zealand – and that you’re thankful for the freedom represented at the table. And hope. Millions are enslaved but that is not the only part of the story. There are survivors, and equally exciting, there is hope that the vulnerable may be protected from ever ending up in this global trade.
- Participate in Giving Tuesday.
December 2nd is Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to generosity. Contact your family beforehand and tell them that you’d like to use Thanksgiving dinner make a difference. Invite each attendee to bring their spare change. Collect it, and consider making a donation that will help me to continue work with HOPE61 in Australia & New Zealand. (I can give you more information if you’d like to know how.)
Human trafficking is evil. But our God loves justice. Taking the time to celebrate family, friends, and thankfulness is a great way to keep hope alive. Injustice is strong but the God of justice is stronger….and that’s something worth celebrating.