No community Thanksgiving Dinner is not a problem

An annual tradition of a community Thanksgiving meal was not held this year. While it is nice to think about Munising and Alger County coming together to break bread and provide for neighbors in need, we can all be very thankful that missing the event was not a major problem this holiday.

Thanksgiving is often one of the most volunteer-driven holidays of the year, with families and individuals both spending time to give back to those less fortunate. While providing to those in need is important, the pretentiousness of not being thankful unless you see people worse off than you has always been a black eye on the holiday. Privileged people looking down on others for social media fodder and ego building is such a trope, sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother”, “Scrubs” and “Community” have all built it into plot lines.

In Munising, the people who helped the most to put on the dinner — Family Fare, service organizations and AlTran — did it for the right reasons. All three have shown year-long public service records as well, so that helps change the usual narrative. But other helpful services like food pantries are often done with some kind of respect for privacy. Even in the U.P., accepting help can be difficult when there is a risk of backlash. This was proven by widespread bullying of kids that received JJ Packs from Marquette County from the kids that were “too rich” or “too good” to not get them.

Small towns do not need to create an opportunity where one neighbor would feel embarrassed to be served a free meal from another neighbor. Even though we can prove the organizers of the community meal are acting honorably, that still can put extra stress from those in need and keep people away from participating.

Another reason is cost. The food, transport and time spent away from family comes at a big price tag for these groups. There has to be open and honest discussion on whether or not a community dinner is worth it, especially when they could use the holiday to recharge and prepare for other community-minded efforts. This does not make them any less of a volunteer or proves they care less about the community. It’s actually the opposite, because it shows that they are trying to find the best value to help Munising and Alger County.

With change, it gives other groups the chance to step up in new ways. Without a significant homeless population and fewer people quarantining for COVID, seniors might be a risk without the meal. This would be something the Commission on Aging could review after the holiday to make sure that people are checked in on while maybe providing a Meals on Wheels supplement to make the Thanksgiving meal a little more special. Potlucks at bars and churches are also great for mental health concerns on holidays for those that cannot see their families, but can see their friends.

While adapting traditions to changing situations can be tough to deal with, in the grand scheme of community benefit, a holiday meal is just a want and not a need. That’s something we can all be thankful for this season.