>Well, here in the US today is Thanksgiving Day. For many people, maybe even most people, it is a day to celebrate gluttony, a day to overeat and over indulge. I cannot say that I haven’t done the same in the past. However, the last 2 years I have done things differently. Actually, I started doing things differently several years ago.
I have not always had the easiest of lives and have spent many years struggling, physically and emotionally to be sure but I have had the greatest struggles financially. Being a single mother with three children to raise was not an easy task and to have my ex-husband decide that I didn’t deserve child support only served to make matters worse. It didn’t matter that the child support was really for his children and it didn’t matter that the courts said he had to pay me the support, he decided he wasn’t going to pay me and so he didn’t. I know there are laws on the books to “force” deadbeat dads to pay support but there are ways around those laws if you look hard enough. My ex found a woman gullible enough to support him enabling him to avoid holding down a job. I understand he sells stuff on eBay but I guess the courts haven’t figured out a way to attach that income yet.
Many years ago I decided my peace of mind was more important than fighting with him about the money so I turned it all over to the District Attorney and am grateful every month when they manage to collect $50 from my ex’s girlfriend. The support order was for $450 per month per child. My children are long past 18 now so all he owes me is arrears and interest, last time I checked (several years ago) that amount was in excess of $120K. I’ll never see it.
But this post is not about past due child support. The past due support just lays the background for my first hand knowledge of less than ideal circumstances in life. I will never complain about having to do without. This may sound strange but I thank God for the first few years after my divorce, the lean years of my life. Those years taught me about gratitude and how important it is. My children and I never did without. God used my family and friends and sometimes even government agencies to ensure we always had a roof over our heads, food on our table and clothes on our backs. They even went as far as ensuring there were gifts under the tree at Christmas time. There were many occasions I was unable to provide for my children but I didn’t have to. I just needed to rest in the embrace of my loving father in Heaven. I fully acknowledge how undeserving I was and still am of those blessings bestowed upon my children and me in those years. I am so grateful the Lord provided for us. I also acknowledge that there are many, many people in this world who are not as blessed.
After a few years of regular employment and a steady income I began to pull myself out of debt and was able to provide for my children and myself. I sometimes wonder if I was too prideful on occasion telling the agencies to please bless other families more needy than ours. It just made more sense to me when I could finally take care of my family on my own. It’s not that I didn’t want the help, I just knew that there were other families more needy than ours.
One Thanksgiving not long after that I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. It was about a week before the holiday and no one had invited us to share the meal with them yet. My apartment (and budget) was much too small for more than one or two guests so I felt unable to invite anyone to share with us. I trudged to the grocery store and purchased a small turkey and all the fixings for our dinner. I must confess, I was a little resentful of my family and the fellowship I felt we were deliberately being left out of. (Long story, a whole ‘nother post entirely.) I was working at that time, a job where I routinely put in 10 to 12 hours a day, which didn’t leave me a lot of time for cooking. Late Tuesday evening I finally got a call from my mother, inviting us to spend Thanksgiving with her and my step-father. Of course I accepted.
Now realistically I could have put the turkey and all the fixings into my freezer and/or cupboards and saved them for a future date with my oven. Considering my finances I probably should have, but I knew that the last minute phone call was a blessing from God, the invitation really came from Him. Therefore, I needed to react to it in the manner to which He called me. That meant that the kids and I packed up all that food and drove it to Samaritan House, the nearest ministry accepting donations for feeding the poor and homeless. A new Thanksgiving tradition was started for my children and me. Beginning that year, every time my children and I had the opportunity, we purchased 2 dinners for the holiday, one for ourselves and one to give away. Or, on the few occasions we were invited to share the holiday meal with someone, we purchased just the one to give away.
I’ve since stopped sharing holiday meals with my family and my children have grown and are now celebrating on their own. They are at a time in their lives where they believe they know more and are smarter than their mother. They believe I am overly religious and bigoted to boot. My children are good people, they are just misguided. This means I now celebrate the holidays on my own. Being alone is not a good thing for me. I am a very social person and can only tolerate limited quantities of alone time. This holiday is especially tough after the recent breakup of my romantic relationship.
A few years ago our church forged a partnership with a ministry in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with San Francisco, this is an extremely poor section of town, populated by people who are usually invisible in our society, the poor and the homeless. Many of the Tenderloin’s residents are there because of poor choices in their lives: addictions, alcoholism, prostitution, whatever the choice may be. Many of the residents are there because of financial constraints or maybe they are immigrants who cannot afford better housing or don’t speak enough language to acquire better accommodations. No matter why they are there it is an often overlooked part of town.
Last year I joined the team from my church who drove down to San Francisco to deliver warm meals and groceries to the residents of the Tenderloin. This year I joined the team again. I do it out of obedience. Jesus calls me to do it out of love for His brothers and sisters in Him. I wrote more in detail about this event last year. I am exhausted so I will not repeat the story this year. However, there were a few things that happened that made this year unique from last year. I may write about those tomorrow.