I HAD NO INTENTION of writing a blog article on the topic of what I did on Thanksgiving. But some folks who read the article I wrote and posted for Thanksgiving morning said they wanted a report.
But heads up, this involves kids who weren’t able to spend Thanksgiving at home.
This was the first Thanksgiving I can remember that I was supposed to have to myself. My wife, an RN, was scheduled to work a 12-hour night shift at the hospital. That meant she would be getting home sometime Thanksgiving morning. So, she would be sleeping that day.
My adult kids were spending Thanksgiving with the in-laws, out of town. So on Sunday before Thanksgiving, when the pastor said the church needed some folks to serve the Thanksgiving meal at a local center for kids in tough situations, I didn’t have much of an excuse.
As it turns out, my wife got called off nursing duty that night. Low patient census. So she went with me to help serve food. They put her in charge of the butcher knife, which was used to cut the pies.
What am I supposed to report to you about what happened behind the buffet table at the pan of bean casserole?
You really want to know what happened?
My interaction with the kids started something like this:
“Can I talk you into some bean casserole?”
Maybe half of the kids went for it. When they did, I generally asked, “Do you like the crunchy stuff on top?”
They all did. No exception.
I was also in charge of buns.
As bun master, I would generally say something like this, “Would you like one of these round buns, or would you rather have one of these square buns?”
One of my fellow servers, whom I had never met, apparently found my repetition of this funny.
She fed a comeback line to one of the kids. When I asked if he wanted a bun that was round or square, he asked for a triangle.
Yeah, well that’s not going to happen.
This was a fine meal of turkey and ham and corn and beans and mac & cheese and pecan pies and pumpkin pies and apple pies and two kinds of chocolate pies personally cut by an RN with a butcher knife.
We served food in 30-minute shifts to three groups of kids. With prep, serving, and cleanup, we were there from about 11:30 a.m. until two. During that time there were just a couple of scenes that stood out for me.
Boy who dropped his plate
The first scene unfolded when a young boy still in grade school dropped his full plate of food right in front of me at the end of the buffet line, which is where they put me with the bean casserole, the round buns, and the square buns, but no triangular buns.
I can’t help but wonder if the terror that exploded onto the boy’s face had been programmed into him. I hope I’m wrong.
One of the staff was right there beside him and she instantly started to console him and let him know that this was no problem. But he remained shaken.
I rushed around to the front of the table. I grabbed some napkins and dropped to my knees to clean up the mess as quickly as I could, so he wouldn’t have to look at it and so no one would slip on it. But mainly, I wanted it out of this boy’s sight.
There was a flash of a thought that passed through my head as I knelt there.
“At the very mention of the name ‘Jesus,’
Everyone in heaven, on earth, and underground should take a knee and bow” (Philippians 2:10 Casual English Bible).
There I was on my knees, cleaning up mac & cheese – no bean casserole – and thinking about kneeling before Jesus, while I was kneeling before this child.
This felt like the snippet of a divine moment, perhaps an ever-so-gentle nod of assurance that this was a place to worship Jesus.
I accidentally worshiped Jesus.
Oops. My good.
Lady on silent running
The second scene starred a teenage girl. It’s probably not politically correct for me to say this, but I thought she was a boy until she got closer. Whether boy or girl, she wasn’t someone whose presence fills a room.
As she passed through the line, I sensed the opposite of that. It felt like someone sucking the joy of life out of a room.
There was no connection anyone could make to her, that I could see.
I’ve been told I have a habit of trying to make people smile when I talk with them. A German friend of mine called my attention to that after I fist-bumped a lady who checked us into our hotel room. I gave her the fist-bump because she let us check in early.
My friend said I was always doing that kind of thing. I hadn’t realized it until then. But since then, I keep catching myself doing this unconsciously.
No luck with this young lady, though.
She refused my eye contact, the bean casserole, and the buns round or square.
I know what a dog acts like after it has been abused over a long stretch of time.
Head down, body pulled back, deeply hesitant to take anything from anyone.
I don’t know about that so much when it comes to humans. But I made the connection with this young lady, whether right or wrong.
Here’s the shocker. When she went back to the table filled with other kids, she bubbled. She acted like a typical teenager, engaging in the conversation and even getting a bit happily animated.
Wow. That’s what I thought. When she had passed through the buffet line in front of a string of adults, she pulled back and hunkered down. Even with me, known to resemble Mr. Rogers.
I couldn’t make her smile. I couldn’t even get her to talk. She just nodded no.
I stood there beside my tray of bean casserole, and my round and square buns.
I hope the people on staff are able to do for these kids what I can’t begin to do.
Sneaking over to chat with the kids
When the meal was served to each shift, and there was no one else passing through the line in between shifts, I would sneak over and talk briefly with the kids. I asked if the food was worth eating, because I was considering eating some later.
A few of the kids were happy to tell me what they thought of the pies.
One boy said he had fallen in love with his chocolate pie. He was sad that they weren’t allowed a second helping of pie. It didn’t matter that they could have all the bean casserole they could eat.
I’m a grandpa. So I told the boy it was okay to get a second helping if he got a different kind of pie.
Fortunately, there were two kinds of chocolate pie.