Giving Thanks

I spent a few hours at my church on Saturday distributing food to those in need. As I helped pass out boxes filled with all the trappings of a Thanksgiving meal – cans of green beans, corn, cranberry, a bag of instant mashed potatoes and a canned ham – I was reminded of all the reasons I have to be thankful. People stood waiting for two hours to collect a bare-bones Thanksgiving meal for their families. When the boxes began to diminish, however, so did their patience.

About an hour in, several people began to worry that they’d be left without a meal. A woman approached to ask if there would be enough hams to go around by the time we got to her number.

Then, there was a momentary ripple of concern when the numeric system was temporarily confused: “Why are you helping number 30? I’m number 28 and I haven’t been helped yet!” Tempers rose.

It was a reality check for those of us who haven’t known hunger or need.

It’s not easy to have to stand in line for food. It’s humbling. It’s inconvenient. It’s a blow to one’s pride. But the thought of being unable to provide for one’s family during the holidays outweighs any inconvenience. Almost sixty people waited their turn.

Toward the end of the line, a young couple and their two-year-old son waited patiently, holding number 44. The boy was well-behaved, but energetic, entertaining many of those around him. The family spoke no English.

When number 43 was called, a middle-aged man wearing a kind smile and a weathered winter coat approached. When he realized his was the last Thanksgiving box, he turned and gave his number – and his Thanksgiving meal – to the young family standing behind him. He smiled at them and walked out the door.

I was humbled by his selflessness. Reminded that no matter how little you have, you can still give to those less fortunate.

And, there is always someone less fortunate. . .

I’m grateful to have witnessed that kind of giving right before the holidays. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.