Thanksgiving past and present

Thanksgiving at grandma's house when I was 5 years old. (I'm in suspenders and blouse.)

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine, especially now that the lure of gifts under the Christmas tree isn’t quite as strong.

Those long-ago Thanksgivings were spent eating Grandma’s turkey et al at the kids’ table and then playing card games all afternoon, complete with screaming and pounding on the table (and that was from my grandmother, who was a tad competitive and LOVED cards).

The best part of the day was being lulled to sleep on the “divan” (my Grandma’s word) to the deep, rumbling voice of my grandfather.

And, now, let’s jog ahead a few decades.

Today I spent the day at the Salvation Army in Providence helping to write out gift tags for Giving Trees that included the names of needy children and the gifts that they wanted. We also helped pack Thanksgiving boxes with food items. Early in the afternoon the boxing lines had to stop because there was no more gravy, cranberry sauce or stuffing. The SA staff was planning to advertise their plight on TV news this evening, in hopes of getting needed supplies to finish their goal of 1700 Thanksgiving baskets.

When we arrived at 9 a.m. the line snaked out along Broad Street as family members waited to sign up for Thanksgiving baskets. Three hours later they had hit their limit, and the SA team members had to turn away the rest of the people in line. I alphabetized the stacks of application forms for baskets. Little notes in English and Spanish on the forms:

“My husband was laid off.”

“We are living from paycheck to paycheck.”

“Thank you so much and bless you.”

“I just want my children for Christmas.”

“I just moved  here from NYC and need some help.”

It’s so easy to separate ourselves and our lives from what I glimpsed today. It’s so easy to pretend these human beings have done something wrong or should try just a little harder. But I know the line that separates us is as fine as the lines of  ink on these applications.

The need is great. The lines were long. Children are going hungry.

As I write this, I see Jaime Comella from the Salvation Army on Channel 10 asking people to drop off food at local Shaws supermarkets. I met her today. She is so young.

I am glad there are people like her in this world.

Volunteers from work help out at Salvation Army.
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