Nov 30, 2009

So Blessed. So Thankful.

Every year my family and I — at least 18+ of us — gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a day guaranteed to fill our bellies with lots of food and drinks, and overflow our souls with love and laughter.

This year was no different.

The food was abundant, the drinks (my fruity concoction and Cassie’s delicious cranberry citrus sangria) were delicious, and the company was perfect. The usual suspects — the Sanchez’s, Roque’s, Manliguez squared, Requireme’s — were all in attendance but we also added our new families — the Walden’s, Harris’, Harvey’s, and Austin. It was a beautiful blend of cultures and humanity and a night flushed with lots of wonderful memories.

But unlike years past, our Thanksgiving morning was different.

That morning we took in feeding the homeless through a wonderful organization called . Through God’s grace, I happened to visit my friend Mina’s facebook page about two weeks ago and noticed she had posted an article about ways to make a difference during the holiday season. This organization was listed in the article and I immediately signed myself up along with Tommy, Chey, Angela, Joshua, Eugene, Mark and Cassie.

I stayed up late the night before to make creamed corn, a sweet potato casserole along with biscuits to bring to the event, which is made possible through potluck donations and volunteers. Along with our dishes we brought bags full of barely worn coats that were no longer being used, brand new toothbrush kits and an extra special care package sent by cousin Beulah who couldn’t join us because of work. When we arrived at the event in Echo Park, we passed off our donations and immediately had our cars filled with boxed meals, clothes and personal hygiene products — all ready to be passed out to out homeless brothers and sisters.

Seeing the long line of cars waiting to be filled warmed my heart.
Seeing the droves of people lined up to sign in and help the “conveyor belt” of organizers inside the center made me smile.
Seeing so many people walk up with homemade dishes and bags full of clothes made me realize there is still a lot of good in this fast moving world that often crushes those left behind in its path.

With three cars full, we set off with simple instructions, “find the needy.”

I rode in the car with Tommy, Mark and Eugene and with eight eyes wide open we cruised through the downtown LA district in hopes to find the needy and brighten up their day.

Slowly we found them and learned what to look for, their appearances all so similar — disheveled often stained clothing, uncombed hair, some looking through trash cans, some sitting silently on the sidewalk with glassy eyes, and many pushing their entire lives in a cart before them.

“Would you like a meal?” It was what we figured was the most appropriate way to serve them.

Initially, we came across some who were hesitant, likely because they had already been given one of the styrofoam cased meals or some with their minds lost to our words. But slowly, we found those who jumped at our offer.

We drove throughout L.A. that morning, passing out at least 15 meals, many pieces of fruit, several articles of clothing and tons of soaps, shampoos, toothbrushes and other products.  Gifts of simplicity that carried so much value. About 45-minutes into our trek, we dropped by Smart and Final and purchased a case of bottled water because it just didn’t seem appropriate to serve these meals without a drink. We wanted “our people” to receive a full meal, a Thanksgiving meal.

Emblazoned in my mind was a Latina I came across that morning who was picking up pieces of glass off the sidewalk. Why? I don’t really know. Perhaps she was picking up the glass to avoid hurting her feet, which were shoeless and only covered with worn down socks. When we offered her food she motioned for us to lay it on a nearby ledge, unable to speak English she only nodded her head.  When I looked at her picking up those pieces of glass, I wondered if she had a family, and if that family knew she was living on the street … picking up glass, without any shoes. Watching her hastily pick up those shards of glass made my heart ache, and seeing her scurry away wearing only socks made me feel guilty for all the hundreds of pairs of shoes that sit in my garage — many of them yet to be worn. This woman’s face has left an imprint on my mind — her piercing eyes filled with desperation intermixed with the spirit of fight.

That morning I learned how much in my life I take for granted — the roof over my head, my closet bursting with clothes, the abundance of food in our house and the warmness of my bed every night. These are things that have always been there since I was little, but it never really occurred to me that these things that can so easily be taken away in the blink of an eye.

I am lucky.

I also realized that faith and hope will never die even in the darkest corners of life. I cannot count how many blessings I received that morning, but they were plentiful and I am so deeply grateful for every single one of them.

“God bless you.”
“You are an angel.”
“May God always be with you.”
“Peace and blessings to you.”
” I knew someone was coming today! You are spoiling us!”

These words came with the most beautiful smiles attached to sparkling eyes. It touched the depths of my soul to see their faces light up when we handed them a meal and received such sincere appreciation in return.

My eyes filled with tears so many times that morning and at one point I simply turned to Tommy and said … “I’m sad.” There really was no other way to put it. When you see people with so little, their entire life in a cart, a bag or simply on their person, it makes you realize how hard this world can be. It makes you realize just how lucky you are for every meal, every gift, every opportunity that comes your way.

We merely passed out boxed meals that day, but the thanks and blessings we received in return felt like we had just handed off a million dollars … one at a time.

It is so hard to put into words what I felt that morning, but it encompassed lessons of love, faith, hope and charity. And I can honestly say, when I gathered with my family that night for Thanksgiving dinner, I was more grateful than I have ever been before.

This Christmas my family and I plan to volunteer at the LA Mission to help feed the needy on Christmas Eve, just like we did last year.

But this year, our Christmas Day will be different.

The Thanksgiving event has inspired us to organize our own rendition of gobblegobblegive. Through the donations of food, gifts, clothing and money we hope to receive from friends and family — we are going to hit the LA streets once again with cars full of food and gifts. We honestly can’t think of a better way to spend our Christmas morning. We hope and pray our event will be a success, and with God’s blessing, it will be the start of a Christmas Day tradition that will continue for years to come …

* If you are interested in participating in our Christmas Day event by volunteering, donating items, or contributing money toward our purchase of food, containers, hygiene products, etc., please send me a message. We greatly appreciate all the help we can get!



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