Even before we received any information on just how to make a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner a possibility for our families, an amazing call came into the office. After my, “Community Church. This is Dannie; how may I help you?” I cannot be totally sure of the exact wording here, but it went something like this:
“Hello, you don’t know me,” came the very excited female voice, whose joyous chatter continued without me asking just who she might be, “I know friends of yours in Cameron Park (near Sacramento) and they told me about your relief work. I am so thrilled to know someone who knows someone who is actually where the people are who need help! I wondered if my family might be able to help.” There was the briefest of pauses on the line so I jumped right in.
“Tell me what you had in mind; we can always use more help!”
“Well, my husband and I have been talking about how we, as a family, might help the victims of the earthquake and I didn’t just want to give money somewhere. We have two children and I thought it would be a good experience for them if they could be a part of the help.”
“I am very interested in getting children involved in helping others, too. What did you have in mind for your family?” Of course, I had all kinds of things flipping through the mental files in my mind to be ready with a quick response just in case I would need to provide a family or situation for them off the top of my head.
“We just want to help in any way we can,” she responded, “you just tell us what we can do.”
“I know just the area,” I said. “They are so appreciative of everything we do for them and they have a lot of little children over there. It would be perfect for your children to help some of these kids. “I described some of the families in our most-needy area to the delightful lady, who seemed to just hang on every word. There were seven children, four single mothers or grandmothers and an elderly couple in a makeshift shelter across the street from the apartments that used to house them. They had not been allowed back in to get their warm clothing and the nights were cold, as were an increasing number of the mornings, in fact. Some of the days warmed up to sixty degrees (fifteen Celsius) but then the night temperatures now dropped to twenty (minus seven Celsius)… Brrrr! When we visited our families each morning, it was the cold that they talked about most. Plus, the rain had started to fall so it was a damp cold that feels like it penetrates to the bones. Would she like to have her family help one of these families?
“We want to help all of them!” declared the lady with exuberant enthusiasm.
Over the next days there were more phone calls with the excited donor so we were increasingly hopeful that the help would really come. Sometimes people indicated a desire and a plan was made but then… nothing. We, as well as the victims of the disaster, had become acquainted with unfulfilled promises but this was looking good so far! We would see when the time came. In the meantime, our work amongst the city’s disaster victims continued with the daily family visits, collections of goods from warehouses around town, and food sacks/cases of water being delivered wherever needed.
Then, the special showers of blessings began! The week of thanksgiving we learned that if we would give the number of Thanksgiving Day dinners we would need to feed our families to a local grocery store, they would be provided… complete with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, dressing, veggies,, dinner rolls and an apple pie! My, but, I enjoyed giving thanks for this great blessing! And, if the family had more members than one complete 12-lb turkey dinner would feed, we could even give them two dinners to be sure everyone ate well this one special day. Don’t ya just love that?
Next we learned that part of our Sacramento family was motoring on down to have Thanksgiving Day holiday with us! What a blessing that would be, just for us! If we cannot be with my own family, this family, definitely, was the one with whom I wanted to share the holiday! We had planned to finish our hot meal deliveries to our disaster families and be back at the church in time to share one of these turkey dinners with our Sacramento family. They should be arriving about the time we finished, if all went to plan.
Well, it was long before the day of cell phones and they arrived much earlier than we had been able to finish deliveries. Nevertheless, they patiently waited for us. No chance they had not found the right church… the corner of the parking lot had a mountain of wrapped cases of clean water and there were two white igloo-style round fiberglass structures that some disaster preparedness group had assembled, one between the church and office/Sunday School buildings and one on the other side of the church . No way one could miss this church!
At last, it was our time to return thanks, while sitting around the wonderful aromas teasing our senses. You may well picture the turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. spread out on the table for the tasty holiday meal, but don’t include that formal dining room table, linen tablecloth of Grandma’s with the family China and best crystal glassware/silver flatware placed in the proper location at each place setting!! Our adult bodies were nestled closely around the Sunday School table of the five-year-old classroom, table and folding chairs appropriate for the age group. Our knees were seriously flexed either against the table or alongside, if the adult had turned the little chair to sit sidewise against the table, because our knees stuck up much too high to go under it! All utensils for eating this meal were of the lowest grade metal or plastic and napkins were paper, no tablecloth. Nevertheless, it was a marvelous time of giving thanks for wonderful family and friends… as well as a God Who loved us enough to see that, not only could we provide the traditional meal for the families we were helping but that we, too, could have the blessing of sharing the meal with our own loved ones! What a fantastic surprise!
Included in the showers of blessings for this special Thanksgiving weekend was delivering the warm coats, hats and shoes/boots to the families mentioned above! How amazingly wonderful it was to be able to share this day with our Sacramento friends who enjoyed helping the little ones try on their new coats, shoes/boots and hats! Warm clothing was also presented to the adults who had, for months, been living with the children in this shelter of canvas, plywood, and cardboard. All of us rejoiced at the wonderful blessings of this special 1989 Thanksgiving Day weekend!
**** An Old-Fashion Thanksgiving Day… Coming Tomorrow