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The God Squad: Plenty to be thankful for

November 22, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Next week, I hope each of you will pause at your Thanksgiving table, before burying your faces in assorted carbs, to ask your fellow diners to name something or someone they are thankful for this year. In addition to family, friends, America and pie, here are some of my unconventional candidates for thanks and continued blessings this year. May God bless us one and all.

I am thankful for soldiers carrying rice.

The half a million homeless Filipinos and the millions still wandering in shock amid the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan have many nations expressing support in words. America has, as always, expressed support not only in words but also in rice and water and tents and medicine.

As with the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami a decade ago, many of the people who've brought this life-saving assistance to a broken land are personnel from our 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade who arrived just days after the typhoon and in advance of the U.S. Navy operating off the immense aircraft carrier USS George Washington, home base to more than 6,000 sailors. They left all their jets in Japan so they could load more helicopters and rice on the carrier.

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American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are unloading more than relief supplies. They're unloading hope. This is the America I know and love, and these men and women are the reason America is different from many other nations — not because of our strong arm but because of our outstretched hands. I am thankful for our troops even when war does not call them.

I am thankful for hospice workers.

I have buried too many people recently. Most of them died in the care of hospice workers. Their families wanted to care for them until their last breaths, but this was almost always impossible.

The families could not always stop their lives and their work to care for the dying, nor were they qualified to administer the palliative care and pain medications needed to ease their loved ones' final agonies. More than this, hospice workers provide strength, support and, above all else, loving permission to let the patient go.

I have been with many dying people, and it always takes me time to recover from being in the presence of a soul as it separates from the body. These holy hospice workers do this all the time, with sensitive and compassionate hearts. I don't know how they can protect their hearts, but I'm thankful they do. They are angels sent to live among us so that our souls can live forever near the God who sent them.

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