With Thanksgiving approaching many of us are reflecting on our lives and feeling grateful for what we have. It’s so easy to get caught up in our worries and to feel stressed out about every little thing. This doesn’t help anyone, let alone our own well being. It’s much healthier and more productive to focus on reaching out to others to see how we can be helpful.
I spent this past Saturday morning at the Caring Kitchen food bank in Delray Beach, Florida helping to distribute turkeys and boxes of donated food to families. I’ve donated a turkey to them the past couple years, but this is the first time I volunteered my time there. It proved to be a very worthwhile experience.
A total of 280 families were registered to receive donated food for Thanksgiving. These numbers have grown tremendously in the past few years. We saw about 100 families on Saturday, and more were scheduled to pick their food up on Sunday. I’ll also be helping to deliver food to homebound people on Thanksgiving Day.
As I drove up to the American Legion Building where the Caring Kitchen operates, I saw a line of people already waiting. I wondered what they were thinking and feeling. Upon entering the back door, I joined a friendly group of volunteers in a room brimming with boxes of food donated by members of churches, synagogues and other community organizations. Program Director, April, gave us a rundown of the procedures, including viewing i.d. cards and collecting the tickets the qualifying families had picked up in advance. If they weren’t on the list of registered families, she said to send them to her. And, if they only spoke Haitian Creole, the native tongue for some of the recipients, we should send them to Debby, a volunteer who speaks the language.
Sounded simple, but from my experience at Maine Arts Camp, I know that registration processes can sometimes get overwhelming, especially if there are any missing forms or confusion. And while getting your child situated at camp is very important, imagine having to figure out how to sustain your family’s nutritional needs as well as a sense of togetherness and support on the holiday regardless of what is happening in your life.
As the morning proceeded, I couldn’t help but notice the cheerful and grateful attitude that almost every family possessed. Only one woman came in on the verge of tears, and she was quickly comforted by a hug from program director, April. I could tell that the Caring Kitchen was truly a safe haven for many of these families, as well as for the homeless people who are fed there on a regular basis. April explained that it’s demanding work, but it keeps pulling her in. “Every time I feel like I can’t do this any more, I see someone out in the community who tells me how we helped turn their life around.” That’s way too powerful to walk away from, she told me.
As I enjoy my own Thanksgiving dinner with my family in a few days, I know I will be feeling extremely grateful. I’m guessing I’ll be envisioning the smiling faces of the moms, dads, grandparents and children who picked up food from the Caring Kitchen, and I’ll be hoping their day is going well. Like any family gathering, I’m sure each one will come with a mixed bag of emotions including the underlying comfort of being there for each other. And hopefully they will share a special warmth with the food on their table serving as a reminder that they live in a community who cares.
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