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Give thanks, and a hand
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The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that true riches come from the love and support of friends and family, a strong faith, and the privilege it is to be an American and a Georgian. If you can count these among your blessings, you have much to be thankful for this year.

In America’s early years, a strong sense of community was of the utmost importance. Settlers relied on each other to help establish small communities that provided food and shelter to its inhabitants. These communities eventually grew into the original Thirteen Colonies, forming the foundation of our country. Growing a community’s society and economy requires people willing to help each other. In fact, the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 serves as a lasting symbol of the cooperation and support between people of different backgrounds and beliefs that defines a community.

The seeds of American society were sown by people who had no one to depend on but themselves and their community. America’s principle of service to others is one of the things that make this country great. Unfortunately, such values have diminished under the widening net of government assistance that has continually grown over the years. Where neighbors, friends, churches, charities and non-profits where the first to step in to help those in need, it is now often a government bureaucracy that fills that void.

In 2009, over 64 million Americans relied on the government for daily necessities such as food, housing and health care. The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Dependence on Government notes that government payments and programs have grown 13.6 percent since last year. Of course, the government’s primary purpose is to do for the people that which they cannot do for themselves, including providing aide to those in hardship.  However, citizens should not look to government to provide for every need.

As American citizens, we cannot ignore our civic responsibility to help others in need.  Despite millions in federal spending on national service programs, volunteer rates have barely increased in recent years. We must return to our founding principles of community, family, faith and country.

Government is not designed to take the place of these values. The government isn’t designed to sell cars or run a private business.  Government isn’t designed to manage our health care. Government isn’t designed to teach our children or act as society’s moral compass. It’s our job to do that for ourselves and to help a neighbor in their time of need. It is only through hard work, self-reliance and random acts of kindness that we can achieve prosperity, not through government handouts.

This year, restore a sense of community by helping a neighbor in need. Contribute to a local food bank so others can have their own Thanksgiving meal. Many churches within our own communities coordinate Thanksgiving meals for those less fortunate. Stop by and contribute with food or service. Give thanks to the military family down the street for their family member standing in harms way to protect our freedoms and keep us safe. Help them prepare a meal, assist with housework, or simply join them in praying for the safe return of their loved one.

As we remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving this year, let’s not forget our responsibility to help others. Practice compassionate conservatism and good stewardship by helping those less fortunate through contributions to food banks, volunteering at a soup kitchen or simply praying for their assistance.

I wish you and your family a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Sen. Tommie Williams serves as President Pro Tempore.