All day, amid the smells of Thanksgiving turkey and pecan pie, I’ve been thinking of how much I have for which to be grateful.
Last year, we were living in our RV in the dead of a frigid Grand Junction winter. Not far from homeless ourselves, we decided to go serve at the local Salvation Army. (Now, I want you to know that we are not do-gooders who visit a homeless shelter on holidays and never think about the lonely people again. We often visit shelters to sing, serve food, or just to chat the whole year round.)
Before long, hundreds on hundreds of people began to pour in. They were typically dressed in old army issue coats if they were fortunate or tattered sweaters if they were not. They smelled bad and there were plenty of folks that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Funny how that just doesn’t matter.
Looking into their eyes, I saw people just like me, seeking a reason, just one little warm place for them in the wide world. There were angry eyes, sad eyes, diverted glances, and defiant stares, but, oh! How wonderful when I came across hope filled eyes that glowed like shining jewels. And behind those eyes were the kindest spirits. There was the good man, a king in tattered clothing, who jumped up to carry my armload of plates. There was the lady who looked so tired, but who laid her chapped hand on mine and said, ‘dear, you must be worn out!”
There were two last pairs of eyes; bright but wary, sharp with hunger. And they belonged to two tiny white-faced babies, five and seven years old. The mother’s face had the regal dignity of a princess, though her clothes were dirty and ill-fitting. The father looked like a lumberjack, his eyes creased with sadness. They lived under an overpass in the city.
When at last the crowd had thinned and my family and I sat down with our own plates, I was almost too tired to eat, and when I tasted the food, my appetite fled altogether. Never have I tasted worse food. All I could think about was how shameful it was that all these people would be fed food that I wouldn’t even hand to my dog.
That night, after serving several thousand people, we returned to the cold RV, our hearts and minds full of what we had seen that day.
That was our Thanksgiving last year. This year, we live in a trailer, on our own land and cooked up a tasty and wholesome dinner. You know what, though? The trappings didn’t make it more Thanksgiving than when none of those pleasant things come to us. I wouldn’t trade days like last year’s for the world. To me, every day that passes has something to live for, something even to die for. When you can get as low as some of those people I saw at the homeless shelter and still carry a smile in your heart, Thanksgiving no longer comes once a year. It’s an active element of each day.