Hunger & help hit close to home

November 6, 2017

The last few years, the Broad St. office where I work earned an opportunity to give a deserving family a Thanksgiving dinner.  In reaching out to these families to share in the news about this meal, I was flooded with vivid memories from a time in my life when my family faced hardships similar to those many families face now.

As a child your innocence can protect you from a lot, but at ten years old I practically grew up overnight. On the heels of my mother's sudden onset of health issues, career sacrifice due to her illness and ultimately divorce, I knew my family faced challenges. We survived the best we knew how, stretching every dollar to the very last penny, eating our fair share of saltines and peanut butter and often leaving groceries we couldn't afford at the checkout lane in the store.  Like many families today, we prioritized by spending for a roof over our heads, utilities and medicine before food.

As one particular Thanksgiving approached, I knew in my heart there would be no big meal with a turkey; it was towards the end of the month and money was gone. What I didn't know was that my mother must have reached out for help, because on Thanksgiving Day as I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the doorbell rang with an unannounced delivery. As I answered the door, there stood a couple holding a box full of everything we needed to have a Thanksgiving meal. I will never forget how kind they were when they said with the biggest smile, "We've brought you a turkey and the sides you'll need for a great meal today." At the time I was thrilled to see a smile on my mother's face.  We were going to have a real Thanksgiving!  I will always remember that box filled with a turkey, a box of Stove Top stuffing, a can of yams, a can of green beans, a bag of potatoes, rolls, butter, a half gallon of milk and a pumpkin pie.

As much as those many years of hardships challenged us, I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish some of those times had turned out differently. But then again, would that mean I'd be here today,  part of an organization that allows me to serve and give back to the community I love? A special and wise friend recently reminded me of how we so often try and make God fit into our box of life's plans and do not seek Him as we live His plan for us.

When I had the privilege of sharing with a longtime customer the news about her Thanksgiving meal, all we could do was cry in tears of gratitude together. Over loud sobs, she finally managed to say, "God Bless you and my wonderful bank...thank you so very very much."  She was overtaken by our bank's outreach, and I was full of contentment, as I lived another reminder that God's plan had me right where I was supposed to be.

It's truly a privilege and honor to work for an employer with a servant heart that partners with so many great causes like Second Harvest Food Bank. The change we give literally changes lives. What we consider just a penny is the same penny others don't have. Spare what you can, and encourage others to do the same. You never know how the smallest act of giving can impact others, so pay it forward. Thirty years after the fact, I know I'll never forget that special Thanksgiving meal in a box.

May you and your family enjoy your delicious meal and time of togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving.

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