Thanksgiving & the Homeless—when the shoe is on neither foot

Do you have a Life List?  OK, so most people call it a Bucket List, but for me it represents the stuff that I want to do to celebrate life, so the moniker stays ... but my tryptophanned brain digresses. Today I want to talk about a desire I have had for oodles of years that was finally satisfied a few Thanksgivings ago—the opportunity to serve others by participating in a homeless feeding program.  

Now it may seem far-fetched to think that I had not been able to do this before, but in short, "my mom wouldn't let me."  Not that she in any way disapproved of doing kindnesses for those in need. She just wanted me around at the holidays. But now that she and the rest of my family are gone and I (for once) did not have scads of commitments, I finally managed to find such an opportunity to serve. So I seized the turkey by the paper-riffled legs and did it!

And boy am I glad I did!  The experience was nothing like I expected, in the best way possible. The volunteers were of all ages and ethnicities, something that warmed my heart, being as I am a huge fan of diversity.

A couple of things struck me most. First off, the fact that had volunteers not worn name tags it is highly likely I could not have distinguished the volunteer workers from most of the grateful recipients!!! Everyone was affable and happy to be there, regardless of which side of the buffet table they were on.  And people kept trying to cajole me to eat! There was no feeling of want or scarcity or pity—just a community coming together to share abundance and thanks.  It was beautiful!  

That brings me to the second clue that suggested I was part of a special and meaningful charitable event, not the standard Junior League bake sale—the SHOES. A huge table was set up just for used donated shoes. I'm sorry to say that before that day, it had never occurred to me what a vital need footwear might be for someone who lacks resources... I now realize that shoes may well be more important than having a roof overhead!  Here is what Kristina Radnoti, founder of says about the issue:

"a homeless person wears out a pair of shoes every 6-8 weeks and there are more than 350,000 homeless in the state of California. The need for shoes is endless!
Homeless Statistics: 
  • 40% are children
  • 20% of the homeless work
  • Every 6-8 weeks a homeless person wears out one pair of shoes.
  • An unpaid bill, or health problem can easily push a family over the financial edge and into homelessness. "

And here is a little something about a similar organization founded by a school girl!  "Shoes 4 The Homeless is an organization founded by 11 year old Sondra Scroggins. Through Sondra’s organization she has not only given shoes, coats, blankets and food to the homeless she has also given them most importantly hope."

Reading about the efforts of these local heroes was humbling as well as heartening. I now look forward to helping those in my community who are in need more often that just on a popular holiday. Oh and rest assured, next year when I do join the sharing of gratitude by serving on Thanksgiving, I will come prepared with as many pairs of shoes to donate as I can muster.

What a glorious Thanksgiving... I am truly grateful.

[reblogged from the bygone Joie de Vivre Lifestyle blog]