Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving: Pass It On!

Yesterday was a humbling day. An emotional day. A Thanksgiving kind of day.

The Sunday School class my husband and I are part of decided to donate money to buy boxes of food for families at one of our neighborhood elementary schools. It's the school that our kids attend, and where several of our class members are employed. It's a school that has some 70% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch programs. It's also the official "homeless" school for our community.

We collected money in class and quickly came up with enough money to buy 10 boxes of food from a local distribution center.

Yesterday, our family went to pick up that food and deliver it to the school, where the guidance counselor had selected 10 families to receive the boxes.

We got the food loaded up much more quickly than we had expected, and found ourselves with extra time on our hands. We decided to go to the grocery store and pick up a few items of our own. It was a typical family grocery store trip. Some bickering about who got to sit on that side of the car, some impatient snapping at each other, some negotiating for treats, some minor annoyances. We loaded back up with our own groceries (charged on plastic with nary a thought) now also in tow and drove to the school for the delivery.


Some of the families were already at the school, waiting, and the positive energy in the room was almost palpable. Everyone was smiling and helping and quietly talking. When we were done unloading, the counselor asked if we would be doing this regularly, and I said that I hoped so, but wasn't sure. He said that after talking with teachers, he had identified 16 families in need (though certainly there are more), and he would love to be able to connect more of them with some assistance.

It was with very mixed emotions that we left the building, realizing that we felt so good about this thing we had done...but that it was only a drop in the bucket. As we walked out the door, the counselor handed us some envelopes, explaining that the families had written thank you notes.

I got back in the car, working my feet in between our bags of groceries piled there on the floor. We drove away in silence, trying to process it all. And then I handed out the envelopes so we could read some of the thank you notes out loud. I wanted the kids to hear. I wanted them to know what it means to help others. I wanted them to understand this thing they were now a part of. (Or perhaps, this thing that was now a part of them.)

The thank you notes were heartfelt, gracious, kind. I had a knot in my throat reading the first one out loud, and found myself blinking back tears, just thankful for what we have, and thankful to be a part of something good, and incredibly moved by the simple fact of people helping people.

When my son started to read a card out loud, the emotions swirling through our heads reached a moment of overwhelming depths. (Or heights, depending on your view.)

Tears started to run down his cheeks, and he couldn't finish.

"He said there were sixteen families...but we only had ten boxes," he said.


I started this post last Sunday, but I couldn't finish it. I just didn't have the words. And now, even as I type this days later, the tears once again begin to rise up my throat and I find I still don't have the words.

But I know that when I come back and read this, I will remember.

I don't know how to record the moment, but simply to say that it was beautiful and tragic all at once. That it made me feel both immensely powerful in my ability to make a difference, and also to feel incredibly small and of no consequence at all. It made me feel incredibly good, and incredibly guilty. It was despair and hope, mingling together in one breath.


On the way home from the school, we stopped to pick up Junior. (He paid a visit to his grandparents while we did the grocery run.) It was time to go to his Physical Therapy appointment.

This is a new addition to his weekly therapy routine. Through word-of-mouth, we heard about an amazing therapist nearby -- the kind with magic fingers and sensitive spirit -- and she was willing to see him. Despite her full schedule. Despite our total inability to verbalize what we want her to do to him. Despite the fact that she doesn't take Medicaid, though that is all the coverage Junior has, and that we can't afford her full-price visits. She was not only willing, but excited, energetic, curious, eager! She's offering us a greatly reduced price and seeing him 5 weeks in a row for a trial run. I don't know what might happen, but I am extremely grateful for the possibilities.

I left the house with my grocery tears barely dried, then drove straight to this appointment, a fresh set of kindness-of-others tears threatening to spill over.


They say it's better to give than to receive, and I agree. It's certainly easier, I do know that.

But what is really amazing is to be on both ends of that equation within a short span of time.

My cup runneth over. I'm filled with Thanksgiving, though it it's not the official day for that. I'm proud to be a part of the human race today. That may sound like a crazy statement to make, but in a world where the headlines sometimes make me hang my head in shame -- for all of us -- it is a profound and welcome feeling to be a small, fitted piece in this very good puzzle.

Here's my challenge: Do something good today.

It can be large or small....just something above & beyond the usual, whatever your particular brand of usual might be. If something nice has happened to you recently, pay it forward. If nothing nice has happened lately, do it anyway.

Just tip that first domino over, and trust that the momentum can flow on down the line.

Happy Thanksgiving, world.


Launa said...

While a bit unusual for your readers to comment on your blog, I cannot read this without saying "Thank you" for this post. It gives me hope today. I will return to read this again in the moments I need someone else to help me believe...

Jujyfruit said...

What a nice surprise to see your name pop up here! I'm glad you left a comment -- I always love 'em! (by all means, do it again!)

And I'm glad it gave you hope. We're doing it again a bit later this month, and I'm still full of hope, too! (And some sadness, and everything in between...)