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CELEBRATING A TRUE THANKSGIVING

Somewhere between the drumstick and the football game, take some time today to measure the distance between the thanks you've given and the good fortune you've yet to share.

Within that gap lies the difference between celebrating this holiday and living it. Enjoying the bounty of the harvest is a moment of celebration; sharing it is a lifetime commitment, to the entire community and all those who live in it.

There are nine soup kitchens in Buffalo that will be crowded today. The crowds will include those who will have little other chance to enjoy the traditional holiday meal and those who are giving their time and energy to serve it.

What bounty there is to share will have come from still others who have been generous with their wealth so that less fortunate families may come to today's festive table. Reaching out to others, they have found, can be far more rewarding than reaching out for another helping.

We grow up with one Thanksgiving, a holiday of pageantry and pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and Squanto, the historical tale of early colonies and the aid of friendly Indians. We mature with another, a Thanksgiving of home and hearth -- and the realization that helping others must still be part of any meaningful harvest celebration.

This is not a day for guilt -- it's a day for celebrating that sharing, along with sharing the feast itself. Far more than New Year's Day, it's also a day for resolutions, of setting sights on helping those to whom the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas might otherwise be a cruel time of year.

Even with welfare rolls shrinking and unemployment down, there is still a great deal of need in this community. We have more "working poor" now, in need not of all-out rescue so much as a helping hand.

The Food Bank of Western New York helps provide one bag of food a month for some 29,000 families -- 91,000 people, compared to 86,000 a year ago. Experience indicates about half of those families will be unable to afford the traditional Thanksgiving meal today. Seldom can the pantries provide enough turkeys to go around.

Last week, when a turkey shortage was reported, the Taste of Buffalo -- that huge annual summer festival of food and fun -- stepped up to the plate with an offer of 372 birds. Delaware North, showing kindness as well as corporate citizenship, matched that with another 372.

Both helped close the gap, between want and have. Both made this a better day, along with the kindnesses of countless others known and unknown. For them and their generosity, this community gives thanks today.

Need knows no seasons, but the providers of aid do. Charities that help those who need it most know that the yearlong measure of capabilities will be taken in the weeks between now and Christmas, when donations run strongest.

Keep that in mind, on this day of celebration and bounty. Beyond the gravy and the cranberry sauce, the laughter and the companionship of today, there still lies time for the truest Thanksgiving of all -- a Thanksgiving of the heart.

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