Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner for 400

Thanksgiving is upon us. That's partly why today's post is about homelessness. Wait! This isn't depressing - it's HOPEFUL. 

Often I say how lucky we are to have so much at our fingertips in Houston. But not everyone living in the city feels so fortunate. I'm referring to our thousands of homeless people who aren't thinking about art galleries, theater, festivals and fundraisers. They're thinking about whether they can feed their kids tonight. About whether the lights and heat will go out - again. About whether 'he' will come home and beat them once more. About saying no for real to the drugs and finally getting clean.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. It's a time when we profess and confess our blessings and hopes for now and tomorrow. Many people open their hearts as the holiday season pushes full speed ahead, and they often spend time volunteering in shelters and soup kitchens serving the homeless.

The yams were huge!
For me, contemplating homelessness doesn't happen once a year. It happens every week. I volunteer in the kitchen at the Star of Hope shelter for women and families, preparing and serving food to women and their children. The kids are heart-breakingly cute, and only know a transient life, while the women range from determinedly transitional in their outlook to desperate yet hopeful.

This week at the shelter, the amazing kitchen staff was in high gear with Thanksgiving preparations. I was fortunate enough to help prep the meal for an anticipated 400 guests. They'll have wonderful turkey, from-scratch gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, plenty of other veggies, pumpkin pie and lots more. I found it impressive that they were even roasting pumpkins to make the pie filling (I can confirm it was delicious). There's something very satisfying about dozens of pumpkin pies being staged for baking. In a shelter, the staff gets creative with menus and I have to say, working here for most of the year I've seen some pretty crazy food ideas which somehow always seem to work.

A place like Star of Hope keeps you humble and prevents you from feeling sorry for yourself for too long. After all, I have so much to be thankful for, despite an odd and challenging year. And, this Thanksgiving I'm very content with just making a side salad since I've already helped with a 400-person dinner!     

P.S. looking for volunteer opportunities in your city? Try VolunteerMatch.

      
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