I didn’t grow up in a big house. But every Thanksgiving, my mother filled it with people. And when she ran out of room at the table, she would send food to those neighbors who had a little less luck that year. She made sure nobody felt deprived, and everyone felt loved.
Although my mother has passed, I continue her tradition of including extra families at my Thanksgiving dinner table. Each year I find one or two families at my Church who need a lift, and invite them to join me for a warm holiday meal, comfort and conversation.
And of course there is also San Diego Rescue Mission’s annual community Thanksgiving meal, where we open our doors to the hundreds of homeless San Diegans who are alone and hungry this holiday.
During our holiday meals, clients from our Residential Recovery Program make themselves available to share stories about how San Diego Rescue Mission has helped turn their life around. And there is no better spokesperson to encourage the homeless to take part in the critical services we offer than the individuals who have been personally helped by our programs.
I stay at the front door for the full 3 hours of our annual Thanksgiving meal to say “hello” to each person who walks through the door. Many, I can tell, have already had a few too many adult beverages, and others are missing shoes and in need of fresh clothes. The difference between those who have been in our program for even just a month, is drastic compared to those fresh off the streets. Those in the program have sobered up and cleaned up. I feel so blessed to be able to offer these individuals a chance at a new life, new hope.
Just as my mother influenced me, the passion and feeling to give to others is often inspired by those around us. I was reminded of this again while working with the Over the Hill Gang to collect material donations for our Thrift Stores. As I sat with the group, watching the last of the donations get dropped off, and ready to get picked up and taken to our Thrift Stores, a little girl decided to join us and sell lemonade to the neighbors. “Well that sounds like a good idea,” I thought as I got up to buy a glass. That’s when I learned that this little girl was selling lemonade to raise money for San Diego Rescue Mission. I was shocked – what are the chances!? What a remarkable coincidence. That’s when I learned that she is the granddaughter of one of our largest donors.
As that little girl proved, it doesn’t take a huge house and a great job to give. Anyone can do it. Just last month, during our Sunday night Chapel Service, I had the opportunity to witness another act of selflessness.
During our Men’s Center Chapel Service, which is also open to the public, a worn and weathered homeless man walked through the door, without any shoes. Upon seeing this, one of the younger men in our program immediately got up and went to his room. A few minutes later he came back with a pair of shoes, and not just any pair of shoes, it was his best pair of shoes. He offered them to the homeless man, who was so, so grateful.
Our children, our neighbors, our community is watching. And our acts of giving (no matter how small) influence others. We are all so busy around the holidays, and it’s so easy for many of us to get caught up in the perfect table setting and beautiful table cloth. When really, the holidays should be a time to give thanks, include and praise others.
I feel so blessed to be able to have so many join us at the dinner table this holiday season, and doubly blessed to have the support of our donors, volunteers and the community to help make it happen.
Thank you and God Bless to you and your family,