My favorite time of the year is the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. During that month and a half, most of us gather with family for laughter, shared meals, memories, gift-giving, celebrations, and setting goals to improve ourselves for next year. Some of us visit friends, family, or places that have previously been sources of joy or memories. A few of us will find someone who thinks s/he has little to be thankful for, and make a difference to that one person, if only for a few hours.
In October, I had occasion to visit the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Post 4, located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street North. For those of you unfamiliar with Birmingham, that is probably the center of the poorest, most underprivileged, homeless, hungry population in Birmingham. At first, I was reticent to even visit this organization. It isn’t in a section of Birmingham I drive through, but AROUND. But I had agreed to share my time and my “talent”, so to DAV Post 4 I went.
I won’t bore you with the details of my visit, but at the end of the hour, I had discovered something: First, I’m a life member of the DAV, but I discovered that I am a member of none other than Post 4! You guessed it - I’ve never been to a meeting. The Commander was thrilled when this discovery was made, and insisted that I start attending, the 4th Thursday of every month.
“Next month, Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday,” I pointed out, hoping for a reprieve for at least a month. “Do you have an alternate meeting day?” He looked at me with a furrowed brow.
“No. We will meet Thanksgiving Day,” he smiled. “We will be serving Thanksgiving dinner, so bring your family!”
I was a little confused. “Then you will meet at noonish?”
“No,” he smiled. “We will be here at 8am to start cooking, and will start serving around noon, and will serve until everyone has eaten. We will pause at 6pm, our usual time, for a short meeting, and continue serving and eating until everyone is through.”
“Well, what if people come in off the streets?” I was thinking there are at least a couple hundred homeless people within a few block area. His reply was so kind, and so unselfish:
“It’s EVERYONE’S Thanksgiving,” he said. “We will serve our members and their families, as well as the 400 or so homeless people we usually serve. We will also have blankets and goodie bags for anyone that wants or needs them. That will take most of the day and evening. We will pause at 6pm for our meeting. I hope to see you and your family here for a delicious meal and some camaraderie.”
I’ve digressed here. It’s just that I was totally blown away by this little organization’s unabashed and unselfish gifts of time, talent, and money… just as Jesus said.
This is the time of year that we celebrate our blessings, but also the time we start to look forward to a new year, a new beginning of sorts. (Some of us are also planning for our upcoming income tax issues.) Most of the people I work and play with are some of the most generous people I’ve ever known. And I mean this in every sense of the word!
There are those that give hours upon hours of time in service to missions too numerous to mention: The American Legion, the V.A. Hospital, cleaning stoves and refrigerators at a huge warehouse in Norwood, Avondale Samaritan Place, their churches. There are those that give freely of their talents, and it is those who keep the “doors “ of the various organizations open, and who facilitate roof patches, stove repair, grounds upkeep, and plumbing issues, to name a very few of their talent gifts.
There are those who give very generous monetary gifts that provide food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless, and support Children and Youth services, and keep the power and water on down at the VFW, and so much more!
So, in this time of Thanksgiving, I ask you to think about your many blessings, pray about them, and see what of those you can share. Can you spend an hour on Wednesday serving soup to the homeless in Avondale Park? Can you vacuum the VFW once a month? Can you deliver a bicycle to some little one who needs a smile for Christmas? There are myriad ways to give of your time and talents.
And while you’re thinking, think on this: Can you skip one Starbucks every week for someone for whom $5 is a meal? Or for an organization that will match your gift? That would be $250/year. When you go out to eat, can you eat chicken instead of steak? Or go to McDonalds for their delicious grilled chicken salad instead of Chuy’s? In a year, that’s a savings of another $300 or so. (I could skip Mario’s pizza and eat Publix pizza, for example.)
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well I’m issuing a “Coffee Cup Challenge”. It works like this: Look at your weekly habits. Find something you can do weekly to save the cost of a Starbuck’s coffee (about $5), and drop that in your offering plate every week… or put it in the “cat can” at your VSO meeting, or donate it to Wreaths Across America, or to the Overlook project for the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery, or any way you want to do it, add that $250 to your Christmas gift to your favorite charity.
If everyone I know took on my Coffee Cup Challenge, 2017 would be an UNBELIEVABLY wonderful year for so many who don’t have as many blessings as you have.