The Rapidian

Freedom from want

Holiday Giving Network makes a Rockwell Christmas a reality for everyone in Kent County
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This year, once again, it will be difficult for many families in Grand Rapids to enjoy a traditional Christmas.

Enough for Everyone

Enough for Everyone

As old-fashioned and unrealistic as Norman Rockwell’s paintings seem today, there is something alluring about them. I have never been a fan of his work, but some of Rockwell’s paintings make me nostalgic for a simpler time. That is particularly true at this time of year.

In his Four Freedoms series, Rockwell includes his “Freedom from Want” piece. In it, Grandma is holding a platter with a turkey on it. The family dining room table is filled food and the turkey is about to be the last entry to the feast. Grandpa, dressed in suit and tie, is standing behind her and watching lovingly as she places the turkey on the table. Around the table sit the other family members, ready to indulge in dinner.

What makes the scene so alluring is that it isn’t like that any longer. Most of us take the holiday meal for granted. It’s just part of the day. It’s a special meal, but there are many other special meals during the year and many other things to do on the holiday. The family that is depicted in the painting, however, is fixated on the bird and the meal. They are a typical middle class family from the early 1900’s ready to enjoy a traditional and special holiday meal. It’s a perfect scene.

The same scene plays out with variations around the world. Years ago, I lived in Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic, the traditional meal is carp and potato salad. While many Czechs don’t care for the taste of carp, it is the traditional meal. That being the case, there is probably a painting somewhere of a Czech grandmother placing a carp on the table with the family looking on in anticipation.

Today in the United States, the traditional holiday scene is rarely witnessed except in the homes of families experiencing financial hardships. In those homes, a big meal is appreciated and there isn’t money to spend on other activities.

Two and a half years after the recession officially ended, 100 million people in the U.S. have incomes that are 150% of the poverty level or less. Some get by quite well, while others would love to have a big holiday meal. 

SECOM is part of the Access of West Michigan Food Pantry Network and participates in the Holiday Giving Network. The Holiday Giving Network is a tradition in Kent County. This year at SECOM alone, we had almost two hundred more requests for holiday meals than last year. Some of that has to do with families having exhausted their savings and some has to do with reduced government assistance. Either way, the idea of a traditional holiday meal is not likely for many families unless we can get help from the community.

Every year there is an effort made to put a full holiday meal on the table for everyone who needs it. If you would like to help, you can go to SECOM’s website or get more information from ACCESS of West Michigan.

It would be nice if everyone could experience Freedom from Want this Christmas. A time of plenty and a happy family around the table – a Rockwell Christmas. It may be old-fashioned, but it doesn’t need to be unrealistic.

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