by Katherine Craddock
Every year, my church purchases and delivers Thanksgiving baskets for those in need in our local area. And every year, I had declined to participate. My mother-in-law was even in charge of the program, and my own children had delivered baskets in the past. But I stubbornly justified my own abstention. I am a horrible cook, I reasoned. I’ve never even shopped for or made Thanksgiving dinner myself! This just isn’t my “gifting.” But in all honesty, I was just plain scared to step out of my comfort zone.
All that changed last year after the adoption of my son. His family had once been homeless, and I decided – in providing a meal for another homeless family – I could honor his birth mom’s sacrifice. There were two families left to choose, and I chose the mom with two little preschool girls. I was terrified to call her. What would she be like? Would she even answer? Taking a deep breath, I dialed the number and was patched through to a hotel desk. Swank digs for a homeless lady, I grumbled.
But then, a small voice – much younger than mine – answered the phone. I cheerily asked her to recall a list of foods that made Thanksgiving special to her. “When would you like us to deliver it?” I asked. “The day before Thanksgiving? Or would you like it a few days earlier?”
“As soon as you can,” she replied. Her answer cut deep into my heart. This meal that I was providing wasn’t about a Thanksgiving Day feast – it was the food she was relying on to feed her little girls for the entire week!
The kids and I shuttled off to the grocery store and bought the works. Sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, extra whip cream and lots of big puffy marshmallows. Collard greens, stuffing, cranberries, apple cider, sparkling cider, and even cereal. I made sure there was enough for several meals, and tossed in some extra pots and pans.
But as excited as I was to deliver the groceries, nothing prepared me for our visit to the “swank hotel.” Under a gray sky and light drizzle, we pulled up to a seedy motel in the city center. Our family trooped up the metal stairs, bags of groceries in hand. The door to the tiny motel room opened cautiously and revealed the mom – a girl no more than 18, with 2 little preschool girls in newly-braided hair.
The mom accepted the groceries with much gratitude, and the marshmallows were a big hit. The little girls – the same ages as two of my children – jumped up and down and made friends with my daughter. They bonded over SpongeBob and princesses, but all I could think of was their mom, stuck day in and day out in a tiny box of a living space, trying to entertain and feed her children with no dad, no car, no laptop, no playroom, no yard, no family, no babysitters, no play dates, no MOPS … nothing but her love for her little girls.
Needless to say, I sobbed the entire way home. How selfish I had been! The toys I had to share. The extra clothes. The fenced in yard and multiple play rooms. The phone calls I had been afraid to make, the complaints I had made, the invitations I had not extended. And here was this mom – so different from me, yet so alike – who had nothing, and held what she did have with such gratitude.
This Thanksgiving, I will step outside of my comfort zone yet again knowing that there are moms right here in my community who need a fresh burst of hope, and an answer to their prayers for their children. Won’t you join me?
Katherine Craddock is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mother of two MOPPETS graduates and two current MOPPETS. The film For the Glory, based on her screenplay, will be released in 2012. She lives in Chantilly, Virginia and is part of The King’s Chapel MOPS.