All morning I was feeling sorry for myself. Ray sat me down before he left for work this morning and told me that we had made a banking error, and our checking account is pretty much empty until payday. Now I must interrupt myself and say that this really isn’t as big of a deal as I am probably making it sound. Payday is in less than a week, and we have enough money to survive until then. What it basically means is that I can’t do any Black Friday shopping, and we’re going to be eating out of the pantry for a week. Not the end of the world, I know, but I pretty much chose to have a pity party about it all morning. I had planned on going grocery shopping this morning and picking up some extra food to take over to the rescue mission. Now, there wasn’t any extra money to do that. I had planned to get some great deals on Christmas gifts this weekend, and now that won’t be possible.
Before lunch, I loaded the kids up in the van and we drove over to Wal-mart to get the last few ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner. I knew that we didn’t need much. Cherries for the pie, marshmallows for the “watergate salad”, koolaid for the punch… Just a few small things and most of them were on sale because of the impending holiday. I handed over the $26 that I owed for my groceries, and tried to force myself to have a grateful spirit even though we had walked past many things I had hoped to purchase. As we made our way toward the door, the children heard the familiar bell. Immediately, their eyes lit up, and they turned to me pleading for money to put in the red Salvation Army bucket. I thought about the empty wallet and checking account, but quickly dismissed the thought as I handed change to each of the children. I watched proudly as they joyfully dropped their two little dimes into the bucket. We continued the trek to the van and I listened quietly to the cheerful chatter of my little ones about how fun it was to hear the clunk of the coins, and how probably now someone would be able to have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner because of the money we had given. All sixty cents of it.
As the kids climbed into the van and I began to unload our few groceries, I was approached by a young pregnant lady holding a little girl of about 3. She spoke in broken English, and held out a sign for me to read that said she was out of work and just wanted to feed her children. I felt my heart wrench. I asked her to wait a minute, and got my wallet out of the van. As I handed her some money, I looked her in the eyes. The gratitude was evident. She was not taking these few dollars for granted. My eyes filled with tears as I thought of the overflowing refrigerator and cabinets that awaited me at home. I wanted to do so much more. I wanted to bring them home, and give that little girl a piece of the cake that was sitting on my table. I wanted to hug the mom and tell her that everything would be okay. Instead, I told her that I hoped the money would help, and I walked away.
As I made my way back to my van, I watched as a complete stranger walked up to the mother, and offered her a turkey. She held out the frozen bird, and said, “Here. Feed your children with this.” I thought that certainly the mother would take the turkey, but I couldn’t help but stare as she refused it. “We don’t have a working oven,” she said with regret in her eyes, “Thank you so much though.”
I climbed into the van with tears rolling down my face. I started the engine, and put my head down on the steering wheel. The children were confused, and asked why I was crying. “What happened, Mommy?” “Why are you crying, Mom?” And then the wisdom of one so small and innocent, “I think Mommy is sad because she didn’t help that lady enough.”
Tomorrow our family will have turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. We will sit around the table in our warm home and give thanks for all God has blessed us with. We will eat until we are full, and then we will stuff our refrigerator full of leftovers to enjoy for several days to come. We will laugh and play and enjoy the company of each other, and we will do our best not to take for granted the abundance that has been entrusted to us.
As we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday, let us not forget how much God has blessed us with. Let us not forget that while our tables are overflowing, many others are unable to provide even a simple meal for their children. Let us remember to give to those in need, and to not be selfish with what God has given to us. I am challenging myself to find an opportunity this weekend to really give. Not just give what I have leftover, but give sacrificially. Give in such a way that it actually hurts. “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” (Luke 6:38)