November 20, 2011

A Grateful Heart

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
H.U. Westermayer

This is one of those quotes that kind of slapped me in the face. I knew how hard it was for the pilgrims, I have read about them, read the poetry of Anne Bradstreet which describes her sorrows and joys. The way we see it, the joys were outnumbered by the sorrows. Perhaps that is not how they saw it. To them, being alive was a blessing. Being with their families was something to be thankful for. Seven times more graves than huts. Mind-blowing.

Speaking of numbers....


That is the number of food insecure families who will have a Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the food pantry I volunteer at. Without the food pantry, they would have to scrounge and go without all the trappings. Not only the food pantry itself, but the people of the community are responsible for this generosity. 

I watched from my place as one of the pantry coordinators stood at the front of the line of people directing them. She wore black pants and a black shirt and an apron and a floppy white collar and a white bonnet. She was a makeshift pilgrim. She did not just stand at the front of the line and direct, but gave a hug to almost every person in line. And they were good hugs, too. I thought to myself, "Wow, she has more love in her heart than most of us." She truly does and it came out in hugs that day. I went inside briefly where another lady I know was also directing traffic. She was so cheerful and welcoming to the people. She could make anyone feel at home. These women are an inspiration with their joy, a stark contrast to me as I walk around in bipolar moodiness half of the time.

Earlier this week, I was at the pantry volunteering. During the two hours I was there, almost 1,000 pounds of donations came in. I have participated in school food drives before, but I have never been anywhere near the other end. Now I have seen the faces of those blessed by donations. I have heard their discouraged sighs, and seen their grateful smiles. Seeing that much food come in, knowing it will help others along and perhaps even change their lives, it brought tears to my eyes. Even though sorting though and date-checking can be monotonous and boring, just seeing the back of the pantry overflowing with boxes and bags was unbelievable. Knowing that those cans and packages will bring a comfortable Thanksgiving meal to families across the community is amazing. It puts donating into perspective. 

What is great about the food pantry I volunteer at, is the emphasis on dignity. You see, the way they treat the "clients" is with the attitude that it could just as easily be the volunteers seeking help. There is no pride, no thought of being above those who come for help. God made them, and He is using the pantry to help them out, and it is not something to be ashamed of. 

The volunteers inspire me. They give up their time and work hard to keep the pantry going. Not only are they supportive of clients but also of fellow volunteers, and we have some good laughs. They love God and they seek after Him. They are grateful for the immensity of the blessings God has poured on them.

So it is with a grateful heart this year that I return to my home and eat with my family and friends, thinking of the pilgrims and then those 230 families who will be celebrating God's generosity with me 100 miles away.

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