Thanksgiving on Purpose


Gratitude is naturally the heart of every Thanksgiving celebration. For many families, including mine, it’s common to go around the table of family or friends and to say what we’re thankful for. It’s a great practice. 

Often we express gratitude for our situation, or for the things in our lives that make us happy or safe. We are thankful for our families who are finally all together again. We are thankful for warm homes, or for jobs that pay for the food on the table. These are what we would consider the bare bones of what we need in life, the tangible things for which we are deeply grateful. 

But for some this year, the pandemic has stripped those things away. 

In my family, we won’t have my dad around for Thanksgiving. Because of his deteriorating health and government-recommended lockdown measures, we will celebrate this holiday apart. I know many others are also feeling the sting of distance from their families during this time, something none of us could have anticipated a year ago.

In FH partner communities, I know of countless men and women who don’t have the jobs they had before the pandemic. Lockdown measures have stopped many from working. And now food security is a huge concern. Families who felt like they were finally working their way out of poverty have been set back. Programs in each FH partner community have pivoted towards providing essential groceries and hygiene supplies to people who are now more vulnerable than ever.

Is it possible for them—and you or me—to find gratitude when our core needs for family, food, and safety may no longer be met?

I was recently reminded of the words of Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He contemplates how he and others survived their ordeal in World War II concentration camps. Frankl states, “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'”

Those powerful words weren’t written about us today, but we find comfort in them. They still resonate deeply and remind me that, no matter how out-of-control we find our lives, our ability to cope comes from having a greater purpose.

This Thanksgiving, instead of focusing on the "how’s" in my life, I want to practice being thankful for my "why’s." Instead of only focusing on my comforts, I also want to be grateful for my purpose. 

I am grateful for my purpose as a father to four kids. I am grateful for my purpose toward ending poverty globally. That’s something that I can be passionate about no matter what role I’m in! In fact, anyone can take on that purpose by doing what they can to support families dealing with this pandemic.

What gives meaning to your life? As a Christian, I believe God has created every individual, regardless of their material situation, in his image with a significant purpose. This Thanksgiving, it’s my hope that, in spite of hard things you may be going through, your heart will be lifted. I hope you can contemplate the beautiful “whys” of your own life. 

A few seats will be empty at our table this Thanksgiving, but we will be okay. Our family has some meaningful “why’s” to celebrate Thanksgiving amidst the change.

May joy-filled gratitude overflow in your home, too!

From my (incomplete) table to yours - Happy Thanksgiving.


Shawn Plummer

President & CEO



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Food for the Hungry: Thanksgiving on Purpose
Thanksgiving on Purpose
Food for the Hungry
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