My family and I just returned from an amazing event that hopefully touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives. 

For several years now, we have desired to serve on Thanksgiving, as a true reminder of all that we have to be thankful for.  In the past, though, for one reason or another, it just never worked out.  One of the big reasons is that few places would allow us to serve with the children in tow, yet we desired to serve as a family on this wonderful holiday.   This year, though, about two weeks ago, we found out about an amazing event in our city. 

A local church had gathered the resources to provide every material and service item a person-in-need could want, and invited the public in.  Basically, a guest (most were homeless, while others just needed a hot meal) would come in, be greeted by a host, then get to go to any “station” room they wanted within the building.  Stations held clothing, a daycare, a nail salon, a barber/beautician, a dental office, a medical office, a shower and hygiene station, a social services booth, a lawyer, a cafeteria, a photo/phone/computer room, a prayer booth, and more.  It was quite impressive to see how nearly 2000 volunteers from around the city came together to make this happen.  EVERYTHING was donated or paid for by donated money, and all the professional “staff” had volunteered their time and services for the day.  We were thrilled to find out that we would be allowed to serve as a family.  Although the men and the women of the family got split up during parts, we didn’t have to put our children with a sitter and serve alone.  They were able to share in the volunteer experience first-hand.  So, with me wearing N in a borrowed Ergo carrier, S wearing A in our Ergo, and JR and M tagging along, we all set out on our first big Thanksgiving service adventure.

We were originally signed up as a “guide host” and were supposed to welcome a new guest in and guide them to the station of their choosing.  This is where we were divided.  Me (wearing N) and M, had to go with the women to guide women, and S and the other 2 boys went with the men hosts to guide men.  However, there wound up being an abundance of guide hosts, so we were re-assigned to be “table hosts.”  This new job involved sitting at a cafeteria table, welcoming the guests, notifying the servers, ensuring the guests had what they needed, and engaging in conversations.  This is where God first showed His presence to us–by allowing us to truly serve as a family.  You see, when we were assigned as guide hosts, S and I were completely split up.  We couldn’t even see each other.  But, unbeknownst to the other at the time, we both wound up being reassigned as table hosts, and even better, we were assigned to neighboring tables. 

I won’t bore you with details, but I can say it was a rewarding day.  Although it didn’t turn out exactly as I had thought it would, we had a lovely time serving others, meeting new folks, and trying to demonstrate Christ’s love to those who truly needed to know they were loved.  It was such a blessing to me, as a mother, to see my little 3-year-old daughter take a salad and hand it to a hungry guest.  Or to listen to her excitedly chat about farm animals with the guest who was confined to a wheelchair, with HIV and hepatitis C.  Disease meant nothing to her, rather he was just another human willing to listen to her dreams.  Of the guests at my table, not a single one was a native of this area, and no two originated from the same state.  I had women from as far away as Korea, and others came from all over the U.S.  Each came here for a different reason.  Some had families, others were alone.  God used our younger children to overcome potential racial barriers.  Despite their differences, all shared a common ground in that they had fallen on hard times, and needed a friend and a hot meal on this Thanksgiving.

Now, as I sit here in my cozy home, sipping a cup of hot cocoa, I can’t help but reflect on this day.  I heard personal stories, saw the pride a woman felt in having her hair trimmed and cleaned, or how a man walked a little straighter because he had a new suit to wear.  Although I had a very tiny part in this whole event, and I don’t know how much the children will remember about it, I look forward to what traditions it may help us establish for the future. 

And I am extra thankful for all that God has blessed us with!

“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  –1 Thessalonians 5:14-18