Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reflections on Thanksgiving Day

The advice is as old as time itself: if you want to "feel better" about your life or your circumstances, find ways to do something for someone else. It's old advice, but it still holds true today.

The church of which we are now a part has a long-standing tradition of serving hot, homemade Thanksgiving Dinner to people in the community: shut-ins, the homeless, the poor, and the lonely. This is done through delivering meals, or serving them in our fellowship hall. Now my personal tradition involves waking up and baking pies, side dishes etc., to take to our own big family shindig in the afternoon. But I really wanted to see this outreach endeavor up close and personal, so I did all my baking the night before and headed out to the church on Thanksgiving morning. I admit I was a little bit skeptical, because after all this is a holiday, and most people are busy sharing it with loved ones, not working at the church!

The first thing that blew me away that day was the sheer number of volunteers that turned out to help. It was truly impressive: every "demographic" represented in our church from the richest to the poorest were there to pitch in and help. Secondly, hats off big time to those who organize and make this thing happen: what a well-run ship! Third, the numbers of people served that day was somewhat staggering to me. I still don't have the final numbers: there are drivers who deliver meals to shut-ins, etc., and then there are servers who serve food to any folks who may come in and sit down for the meal in the fellowship hall. Last number I heard, was that well over 500 people were served a meal on Thanksgiving Day.

Finally, I found myself having to keep my emotions in check even as I filled dozens of take-out containers with food. Because as I was doing this, I was watching those who came in "off the street" to have a turkey dinner. There were the elderly folks, just eating up the attention and love they were being shown, there was the homeless lady who sat off in the corner, still unable to escape the kindness and love that was being extended, and probably most heart-breaking to me, there was the young couple with two little boys, who just seemed to have a "down-on-our-luck" weariness emanating from their very persons. They even seemed a little embarrassed to be there at all, but it was Thanksgiving, and it was a free turkey dinner. And you'll do anything when you have kids. I cry for them all, because I know so well that there but for the grace of God, and the love of family, go I. And that is so much more than a cliche'......

My part in Thursday's success was so small, almost imperceptible....but it was truly my honor and privilege to be a part of it. I felt very proud to be part of a congregation that sincerely seeks to put feet to Christianity, and a face to Christ.

My only regret was that I didn't haul at least a couple of the children along to know the joy of serving and the reality of our blessings. Next year this will be a family endeavor.

5 comments:

Kim M. said...

Tara that is just awesome! Thanks for sharing this story.

Kimberly said...

Tara....my parents and I did something like this only a couple of times in Mi., and life has drastically changed for us....but I hungar to be involved in something like this again. Beautiful....both the event and your reaction to it all. When folks beat up on "social" endeavors, I always wish that (like you expressed here) our hearts could seek to understand how sad and lonely the needy (including ourselves) feel. Convoluted thoughts, I know....but thanks for helping me think more clearly tonight.

(And fyi....I did NOT "join" Facebook yet....truly just lurking still:)(you have Dereck to help w/that....I have Kayla:)....Love Ya!)

Sonja said...

Loved your thoughts. And agree with you and Kimberly about the importance of the gospel having a "social" side as well. Our students serve meals every Sunday at the downtown missions, and I cringe when the occasional criticism comes down the pike. Seems to me that people can see Jesus a little easier if they're not having to push past hunger pangs! So glad that your church puts feet to their beliefs! Blessings!

jenny said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes, Tara. Gerald gave us a quote a long time ago that we have long been challenged by, "Let the health of your family rub off on those who are so unhealthy around you." Tom and our boys help out once a month in our church rotation where our church actually houses and feeds the homeless one night a week (there is a network of churches that make sure every night in the winter months is covered). Sadly, they have to turn people away for lack of space. It really changes your perspective when you look into the eyes of people who are down and out (like you said, for so many different reasons). We do so little...but of one thing I'm sure, we can no longer do nothing.

The Canfield Family said...

Tara, could you email me your email address to the address below? I would like to write you.
Doug

djcanfield@windstream.net