In 2006 – when the economy was surging with no apparent end in sight – we decided it would be good to let our children experience the struggles less fortunate people endure. So on Thanksgiving, we joined with other families from our parish to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown.
There we encountered men and women whose lives no one would choose to endure. Yet amidst all of the pain and suffering from ailments, abuse and avoidance, there was gratitude. As they made their way through the line to receive turkey and all the fixings, some responded with words and smiles, others simply nodded. I struck up a side conversation with a young man who said he arrived in Houston three nights earlier, having been dropped from a bus after being released from prison. “I don’t know anything about living on the street,” he said. “I’m scared, and have no idea what to do.”
Watching our youngest, who was eight, refill water glasses and hand out cake, I realized she had no fear at all. To her these were just people and she was getting to help them. It was a wonderfully fulfilling day for the five of us… and we returned at Easter and a few other times over the next few years. With each opportunity to serve came joyous feelings of playing a small part in making our community a better place. I believe our children have a clearer understanding of the world because of those simple acts of kindness.
Today, as you break bread with your family and give thanks for the many blessings in your life, take 10 seconds to remember those who are alone and adrift. There are a lot more people hurting than five years ago… and every one of them could use your prayer.