Thanksgiving is becoming one of my favorite holidays. We get a whole day to watch football and hangout with family without the gift giving. To me, Thanksgiving is a great day to help me remember all that I am truly thankful for. As I get older, I more clearly see the gifts that I have been given and how truly blessed I am. But before we sit down to the table to eat this Thanksgiving, I want to share with you the opportunity we had earlier this week to help those in our community while teaching our son about giving thanks and paying it forward.
A community coming together
Every year, our church collects between 200 and 300 individual Thanksgiving meals. These meals go to families in need in our community. To see all the sheets that contain the shopping list for each meal posted on the wall at our church is really overwhelming to me for two reasons:
- It’s a gut punch. Not only is 300 meals a lot to collect, but that meal only covers 1 day’s worth of food. I start to think about the other 364 days of the year and what that means for those who need assistance.
- Can we meet the need? This year our church had 235 meals posted for community members to donate. An additional 65 meals were on a waiting list. When you know the need is that high, you hope you can meet the goal. Thanks to many generous donors, not only did our church collect the initial meals, but they were also able to fulfill the additional meals on the waiting list.
Delivering Thanksgiving meals
Anna and I donate meals every year, and this year we decided to help distribute them as well. We wanted to take Jude with us since he’s old enough to help this year. Adelaide will be two in January, and we decided that we’ll bring her along in a few years when she’s a little older. Getting in and out of the car is not fun for her or anyone else, so she spent the afternoon at Nana and Pops’ house.
Jude is at the age where he is curious about everything and asks questions non-stop. Anna and I try our best to answer his questions, but sometimes that is not good enough. We have explained to him that not everyone lives indoors, has money, cars, or food. While telling him this is one thing, showing him has more of an impact. We wanted to show him that not everyone lives like we do.
During our deliveries, we were able to get Jude involved. His job was to carry the 5 pound bag of potatoes at each stop and to wish each person a happy Thanksgiving. At one stop, there was a little boy around Jude’s age who greeted us at the door with his mom. Jude had questions for us once we got back to our vehicle: “Why do that boy and his mom need food? Why don’t they go to the grocery store? Do we know them?”
These questions are the harder ones to answer. I don’t want Jude to worry about us or his well being, but at the same time, I want him to be aware that there are people in need all around us.
A community of faith
We helped others this week by delivering meals, but we want to teach our children that every last one of us needs support from our communintity during different points in our lives and for different reasons. We are a community of faith, and we belong to one another. Both Jude and Adelaide will need their communities throughout their lives.
Our children need to know that people in our community live differently than we do, and the hard truth is that Anna and I also need to remember this as well. The people in our community are our brothers and sisters.
We tend to focus on what we want and overlook what we already have, what’s right in front of us every day. I am reminded of a sign I once saw that read, “Remember the days you prayed for the things you have now.” Eight years ago, Anna and I were both living our separate lives and praying for what we have now – each other, children, and family.
This year, I hope you can take a moment and count the blessings that you encountered this past year. How do you teach your children empathy? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
And from my family to yours, we wish you a very peaceful and restful Thanksgiving.