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Finding and Sharing ‘Friendsgiving’ Spirit this Thanksgiving

November 27, 2019
John Hairston
John Hairston


When talking with fellow Hancock Whitney associates about the topic for this message, the subject of “Friendsgiving” came up. A custom which has gained popularity over the past several years, it’s when friends get together for a feast generally around the Thanksgiving holiday. The term’s origin has become urban legend, including that it was coined in 1994 during the Season 1 Thanksgiving episode of the iconic sitcom, “Friends.” According to Merriam-Webster, the word “Friendsgiving” first appeared around 2007. In recent years, it seems to have taken on even more life among military families with loved ones serving overseas. 


Wherever the expression started, it still describes gathering with people you care about to give thanks for a multitude of blessings during the year. While the word is relatively new, the concept of Friendsgiving has been core to the places we serve for generations. It’s always ongoing, too.


Every day at dinner tables around our region, kinfolk break bread with people alone or in need. Before they bless their own suppers at home, many folks serve and sit down with diners at countless soup kitchens and shelters. People donate time, food, and finances freely so other families can have healthy meals.


In the Gulf South, Friendsgiving carries on that compassion which is so central to who we are. It’s one more way we reach out with heartfelt affection. It’s one more time to be thankful for and bring together the good in our lives, especially people important to us. It’s one more means of letting people know they matter to us, with small gestures that generate untold happiness.


Sadly, the picture-perfect depictions we often see of bountiful tables heaped with handed-down recipes can sometimes overshadow the want still so prevalent in so many places. In our great Nation of plenty, poverty still persists, hunger is real, and children suffer.


As I thought on my way to work about what Friendsgiving means, I became inspired to detour and drop supplies at Feed My Sheep, a food kitchen five blocks from Hancock Whitney Plaza which every single day feeds hundreds of homeless and people in need. When I pulled into the parking lot, at least 20 people were already waiting, although the doors didn’t open for several more hours. Whether they were volunteers there to serve or people there to be served, I couldn’t tell. Regardless, that much activity well before lunchtime was a poignant reminder of the needs our communities face and priorities as my own family prepares for our Thanksgiving. 


Thanksgiving 2019 Associates-1

Friendsgiving 365. At Thanksgiving and all year, Hancock Whitney associates help carry on the caring that sets our region apart by volunteering with and contributing to countless organizations feeding and sheltering people in need.


Studies repeatedly affirm we’re one of the most philanthropic regions in America. For us, though, statistics aren’t the impetus to take care of others. Doing good is simply how we were raised and what we know in the communities we call home.


I hope we can all continue to call on that innate goodness which sets our Gulf South apart by giving and sharing so that every individual and family facing hardship can feel the spirit of Friendsgiving for themselves. Each of our hometowns has services to assist. If you feel a tug, please take a moment to help your local shelter or food distribution center in the manner most fitting for you and your family.


May your Thanksgiving holiday focus on gratitude for the good fortune and good people in your life, and may God bless you and those you love.