By Invitation Only
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the holidays. I grew up in Canada so I’m not accustomed to Thanksgiving being so close to Christmas. Back home, Thanksgiving is celebrated in mid-October so there’s lots of time to recover before another big event occurs. Here it’s just back-to-back holidays. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving to me still means family, food and leftovers.
Sometimes Thanksgiving can be a little crowded. At my family get-togethers there are grown-up tables, kids tables and little kid tables. Don’t let the titles fool you…I sat at the kid’s table until I was in my thirties. It’s more of a hierarchy than an age thing. The only real difference is the beverage service; juice versus coffee, or maybe wine after the meal. Every table is the same, lots of food and no leg-room.
I didn’t go home this Thanksgiving, deciding instead to spend it with my family here. I have learned that family is not so much dictated by genetics as it is by choice. God has blessed me tremendously in that I have a great biological family AND a great family of choice. I am extremely grateful for both.
This year I had possibly the best Thanksgiving of my life. I got to spend it with my friends serving dinner to over 200 people who might not otherwise have had a Thanksgiving meal. The Baton Rouge Dream Center hosted its first public event, inviting everyone in the neighborhood to come to our place for dinner. It was fantastic. Cooking For Christ outdid them selves again, providing turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green beans and apple crumble. Between all the campuses, CFC prepared over 1100 meals between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon. Those are some dedicated men and women of God!
So here’s how it went down Thanksgiving Eve:
Most of Wednesday was spent getting tables set up, flyers distributed and decorations laid out. We had asked HPCers to consider volunteering some of their time for this event and they showed up! Over the course of the day we had about 150 people come out to help pull this thing off. There were singles, couples and families; people of all ages who wanted to give something back. It was incredible. We had greeters in the parking lot, people seating guests at their tables and servers bringing meals and beverages to our patrons. Some of our volunteers just sat with local families, visiting with them, sharing their lives and praying for them. Just incredible.
Some of our volunteers went door-to-door, inviting people to come celebrate with us. Our good friends at the flat-tire station were still working, so we made to-go plates and delivered a hot meal to them. They were appreciative and hungry.
At 7pm we were closing up shop, but with leftovers available we made the plan for another delivery. Turner Plaza is a housing project just up the block from the Dream Center. Since the residents are primarily elderly or disabled, they are grateful for anything we bring them. We loaded up the meals and headed over to North Street. Before we knocked on our first door Road Runner had arrived. Road Runner is a fast-talking, quirky kind of guy who has lived at Turner Plaza for 27 years. He told us that they had put him out three times, but since his cousin is a senator they keep letting him move back. He stated proudly, “They’ll never keep me out of here”. You gotta love Road Runner. He was good enough to take us door-to-door, letting us know who lived where and who really needed a meal. Behind one door was a sweet woman who told us she was born January 11th, 1902. Before we had time to hand her a plastic fork she was eating the turkey with her fingers. We left her an extra meal for the next day. Behind every door was another story. It took us about 30 minutes to hand out the 65 meals we had taken to the Plaza. Everyone was very thankful and not one person turned us down.
Overall we estimate that we fed 240 people that night. There was food, fellowship and even a little break-dancing. It was a good night. I am continually amazed at how God’s love can penetrate barriers that seem unbreachable. The devil has drawn some pretty firm lines through that community; lines of poverty, racism, addiction and violence. But, on Thanksgiving Eve, every one of those lines were crossed. We ate together, we prayed together, we rode together and we celebrated together. God’s love overpowered darkness once again. Ha-ha, Devil, you lose. All glory to God!