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Giving Thanks for a Meal Shared In a Church Basement

by Mary Beth Coudal

 
Original Text in Hayden's handwriting as included at beginning of story.
Hayden's thoughts about Thanksgiving.
Image by: GBGM Administration
The author poses with her husband and children ready for the first day of school.
The author poses with her husband and children ready for the first day of school.
Image by: Courtesy Mary Beth Coudal
Source: GBGM Mission News

Last night, I asked my third grader, Hayden, to help me write something about Thanksgiving. Here’s what he wrote:

I'm Thankful for my mom, my dad, my friends, all my relatives, and food.

I think giving thanks is giving someone a new home or starting someone on a new life. It’s like sacrificing yourself for someone else.

Most people are lucky to have a home. Imagine having to sleep in the street with all the dust and noise. I probably couldn’t sleep.

Once me and my sisters went to a homeless shelter. Sure, they look old and raggedy but deep inside, they are nice.

Hayden was remembering the night several months ago when we volunteered with the United Methodist Women at the shelter at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

I had planned to hire a babysitter for my three kids, Hayden, eight, Catherine, six, and Charlotte, six, while I helped serve dinner.

“Why don't you bring the kids?” asked Julia Tulloch, a United Methodist Woman friend (and Women’s Division executive).

I worried that the experience might be too intense for them or too difficult for me to explain. After all, “Why ARE there homeless people?” What if they asked me that? How would I answer?

But, with Julia's suggestion (and the prospect of saving $10 an hour for a few hours), I decided to bring the kids.

The kids just accepted all the women, whether they served or were served, as friends. They ran around the table where we all shared a warm meal and laughter. Yes, at several points, they did get a little too rambunctious. But their enthusiasm added to the family feeling in the church basement that night.

And the thing is--the kids didn’t really ask me that larger question for which my answer is complicated and full of disappointment. That question of Why? Why is there homelessness?

However, there was a question on the way home.

A block or two from church, Hayden saw a homeless man with a shopping cart setting up a bed for the night on the sidewalk.

Hayden got very excited, “Hey, Mom, can we go tell that guy there's a place for him to sleep at the church?”

“No,” I said. “The shelter at church is just for the women tonight.”

But his desire to connect the man to the church was an AHA! moment.

The church is a place for homeless people. And for kids, too. I’m thankful we were all together.

So this Thanksgiving I’m grateful for all the women in United Methodist Women and in churches like Saint Paul and Saint Andrew’s, who feed people every night of the year, not just on Thanksgiving. And they do it with no fanfare or expectation of reward.

And I’m thankful for my kids who remind me every day that along with life’s blessings come gratitude and sacrifice.


 
See Also...
Topic: Children Christian love Communities Human rights Poverty United Methodist Church Volunteers Women Older adults
Geographic Region: North Eastern U.S.United States
Source: GBGM Mission News
 
 

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Date posted: Nov 23, 2005