No, thank YOU.

For the past 10 years I have run the Thanksgiving Food Drive at my children’s elementary school. It’s a small but heartfelt operation that provides all the typical Thanksgiving dinner fare, including a turkey and hopefully a few extra pantry staples thrown in. It’s incredibly meaningful to me because it serves families who have fallen on tough times right in our own school–as in, boys and girls that might be sitting next to my daughter.

But yesterday was a first.  The school nurse, who is in charge of identifying the families and distributing the boxes operates under the utmost of confidentiality and discretion so as to maintain privacy and dignity for the recipients. So in my ten years of running this event, I have never known or seen a single family receive a box. But yesterday, during the sorting and packing and boxing up, a woman introduced herself to me and followed up by saying,”Every year I receive a box. This year, I’m still receiving a box, but I decided to help.”

Wow. What could I say? I didn’t want to lose this sort of intense moment by talking too much or too soon or sounding too…whatever the word is. Like a superficial suburban mom who might be somewhat out of touch with the reality of my neighbor’s hardships? I still haven’t really found it. Because in my heart of hearts, my intentions are good. And I just wanted her to feel like we were friends, working side by side at school PTO event. Because really, isn’t that what we sort of were?

In all of the humility it took for her to reveal herself as a recipient, ironically, I felt humbled. Very humbled. I thanked her for coming. And she thanked me back. And it’s hard to feel simultaneously thankful and a negative emotion at the same time. Such as judgmental or critical or resentful or whatever other emotion either one of us could have chosen for our own private reasons.

We wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. And then we continued to work side by side. A little awkward. A sort of weighted silence. But still just two moms trying to show our kids and neighbors what Thanksgiving is all about. Choose to be thankful this week and watch how easily everything else falls away.

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