(Posted October 28th 2019 @ 8:10 PM by: Melody Reever)
“I was hungry and you gave Me food … inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35–40, NKJV).
Thanksgiving is a time when our hearts and minds turn toward home, to family and friends, to turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. The planning starts weeks ahead; the cooking starts days ahead; and the thoughts of good food and fellowship becomes bits and pieces of conversation long before the occasion.
But not so for everyone. There are those who, whether by personal choice or by life’s way of unraveling, do not have the joy of a Thanksgiving celebration with family or friends. It is simply one more bleak day of trying to eke out an existence and perhaps scratch up a little bit of food to keep body and soul together for a few more hours.
Kiara, Belle, and Arianna, three young ladies in our church congregation, have joined their mom and her co-workers several times in a gesture of goodwill to the community by serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. I spoke with them about their experience.
Linda Gleason (LG): Well, girls, whose idea was it for you to help serve dinner in a homeless shelter?
Kiara: My mom works in the food industry, and the company she works for decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for people who don’t have a home. She was asked to help, and it was really her idea for us to go along.
LG: Generally, everyone is busy with their family at Thanksgiving time, cooking and preparing food, even days ahead. How did it work in your home by adding this event to your schedule?
Belle: We just planned ahead: How we would include this in our holiday weekend; how we would get there; what we were going to wear; where we were going to park; and what we would talk about to the people we served.
LG: Arianna, were you excited about doing this for the first time, or was it a little scary? You are shy by nature. How did you feel walking into a situation where you needed to interact with others?
Arianna: I was really nervous, but also excited to be able to help.
LG: What was the thing that impacted you the most about your experience of serving these people?
Kiara: It was November. It was cold. Just seeing the people come in from the cold and start to take off layers of clothes they wore to keep warm really touched me. Seeing them just trying to get warm. For some of them, it wasn’t important to talk with other people. They just wanted to be warm.
Belle: It made me think of what it would be like not having any friends. Some of them seemed to really like connecting with people—being together and eating together.
Arianna: It really made me think about what I have in my life. I have a place to sleep. I have siblings and parents who love me. Even though our home isn’t very big and we are in a remodel, we still have love and support. I know many of those people come from damaged homes and have a hard life. It made me thankful for my home and family.
LG: So, you are teenagers. Were there a lot of teenagers there helping to serve?
Kiara: Most of the people there serving the meal were older. There were some younger ones—maybe in their twenties.
LG: How about the people who came to eat? Were they older or were there younger people?
Belle: There were some younger ones. I saw some families come in with little children.
LG: As you were interacting with these people, were there any particular situations that stand out in your mind?
Arianna: There was one man who was really hungry. He had already eaten his meal but was still hungry. I thought he probably hadn’t eaten for a while.
LG: What did you do?
Arianna: I just kept giving him more food until he was full. I kept thinking that he is probably hungry every single day.
LG: So, girls, what does it do to your heart by observing their situations?
Kiara: It makes me thankful for my home and church.
Belle: It makes me realize we are blessed with a good family and friends.
Arianna: It made me not want to complain about my house that isn’t finished. I’m just glad we have a home!
When we gather this holiday season and enjoy good food and fellowship, let us not forget those who are not so blessed and perhaps seek a way to lighten the lonely life of someone who has no one—do it as unto the Lord!
Linda Gleason is married to Gary Gleason, pastor of Oregon City UPC, Oregon City, Oregon. She serves as UPCI Ladies Ministries president.