When I was a kid we had a Thanksgiving tradition of going up to the military base where my dad would serve food to the young airmen away from their families at Thanksgiving. After they all ate, then we would get our own food and sit down to a nice meal together. We would wear our Sunday best and have a great time. Nobody was allowed to shout or yell at us because it was Thanksgiving. The most that would happen was Dad would give us a stern look if our elbows were on the table.
After everything was done, the leftovers from the feast at the Chow Hall would be loaded up in the back of Dad's big Ram Charger and we would take it to the homeless shelter on 25th street in Downtown Ogden, Utah. It was always my favourite part of Thanksgiving, being able to provide all that wonderful food to the homeless people. I loved my turkey and fixings, but those people didn't get meals like that very often. It meant more to me to be able to deliver it all with my dad than it meant to sit down to eat it. I was reminded year after year of how lucky I was to have a family and a home, warm meals at night and more than the clothes on my back for warmth in the mornings. Of all the traditions we had growing up, watching the faces light up when we pulled up to the shelter was my most favourite.
This year I found myself to be one of those people without a turkey, without a family, and barely more than the clothes on my back for warmth in the morning. Yet, I felt like I had the whole world. I wasn't sad or depressed the way I thought I would be. I had overwhelming springs of hope inside me. I knew that someone out there was delivering turkeys to the homeless shelters, mashed potatoes to their neighbors who couldn't afford their own. Even if that person wasn't my father, I knew that if he had done it, someone out there still did it. Someone out there was taking care of the less fortunate. I didn't NEED turkey. It would have been nice to taste stuffing and cranberry sauce on that most festive of National Holidays, but it wasn't a necessity. It was quite obviously a luxury.
I got no invitations this year to attend a Thanksgiving dinner. I got no Green Bean Casserole, my most favorite of holiday foods. Instead, I made a large batch of my own home made chili in my crock pot, bolted the lid on tight, picked up another girl with no Thanksgiving plans or invitations and drove to work. There we met up with two of my other employees (and friends) with whom we shared a small feast of Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, chili with cheese and crackers, chips and pumpkin pie from the grocery store. It was a meager feast, but it was our Thanksgiving, and though it wasn't much, it was my way of giving back the way my father did when I was a kid.
I couldn't afford to buy anything for food, so I was lucky I had purchased all the things needed to make my homemade chili a couple of months ago. It was easy to toss together the night before, let it cook overnight to mingle the flavors, and take what I could afford to share with others less fortunate.
Michelle had eaten earlier in the day. She had cooked the meal herself for just her and her boyfriend. From what she said, they had quite a feast. Johnny's family didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, and his mother just gave birth to a new baby boy the day before. Even if they did celebrate the holiday she probably wouldn't have felt like cooking. Sage gets along with her family the way I get along with mine from what she tells me. It was finally my turn to share a Thanksgiving meal with those who had none, including myself. It may not have been turkey and gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce, but it was a feast none the less. I was stuffed in the end and full of spirit.
When I got home I was filled with a light I couldn't figure out for a while. Only 4 people showed up to the "Leftovers Feast" I had tried to plan for weeks, but it wasn't a failure. I was able to share what little I had with those who may or may not have had less.
When we look at the history of Thanksgiving, isn't that where the tradition started? The Pilgrims and Native American's shared what they had with one another. They gave what little they had to someone else and in return received friendship and peace those three days they feasted. Though our leftovers may last three days (I made a lot of chili) the friendships I've made here will last a lifetime. Who needs turkey at Thanksgiving? All we really need is the spirit of sharing.