“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus
They lived a comfortable life in the upscale part of town, the children were teen and pre-teen then and had most anything their hearts desired. They had begun to recite their Christmas expectations of late, never doubting their every wish would be fulfilled. The woman had begun to notice a jaded air they had about the things they owned and the lifestyle they lived. Her thoughts turned to earlier years, years when they had lived far from the lap of comfort.
As she watched her children go off to school that morning, her thoughts rushed ahead to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Off they would all go to the mansion, where close relatives lived in luxury, where every comfort and convenience abounded. The woman thought back to her childhood and she remembered barer Thanksgiving Days, there was food, but sometimes the house was cold, the clothing old and tattered, always though there were smiles and hugs, no jaded looks or boredom like she now saw in the eyes of her children..
The following week on Thanksgiving morning, the children rose and dressed for the festive occasion, then presented themselves for the ride to the mansion, already anticipating the smell of roasting turkey, pumpkin pie and other holiday treats. Every year it was a contest to outdo the previous one, with every possible treat served underneath a crystal chandelier on the finest china. Every year they would proclaim “This was our best Thanksgiving yet!” When the woman turned the car in the other direction, eyebrows raised and the children began to question why their feast was being delayed.
Across town, she pulled the car in to the local mission house parking lot and took the children inside, explaining they would share this Thanksgiving dinner with those less fortunate than themselves. Making her way back to the kitchen area of the building, she removed her many diamonds and bangles, washed her hands and began deboning turkey with the other ladies, who stared, clearly shocked at her presence. Her very surprised children were directed to help serve plates to the hungry waiting in the dining area.
At first the children were subdued, not understanding why they were not being allowed to enjoy their normal feast with their own family. All throughout the meal, they worked side by side, the woman helping with food preparation and the children serving. By the time two hours had passed, the children’s faces bore looks akin to awe. It was as though a light had come on in their spirits, suddenly their understanding was enlightened and…..they knew.
As they returned again and again to the kitchen area to fill more plates of food for the hungry they were serving, they began to relate stories – stories about those down on their luck, stories those they served told of having lost it all, stories of being homeless, jobless, and without hope. Stories of hope filled words they had begun to speak to those who had so much less but appreciated it so much more.
As they left hours later to return to their home after having eaten their Thanksgiving meal on paper plates with those who had so little, the woman smiled at the change she saw. They came, they served. They saw and now they understood. They understood just how blessed their lives really were, how much they really had to be thankful for.
The best was yet to come, however, as one of them looked at the mother and said “I think this was our best Thanksgiving yet, Mom.”
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”- Theodore Roosevelt
Excerpted from Sidewalk Flowers, Vol. 1
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