This was published in the Mormon Times section of the
Deseret News on Thanksgiving Day
We just never know how our desire to do a little service can expand into something bigger. The year this happened my brother Jack and I had so many teenage children it took two hands to count them. We thought it would be nice to harness this teen power for a good cause. My brother had recently started a catering business and had a big kitchen in his basement. We discovered a trailer park where people live in small camp trailers all year. The park owner gave us the names of five families that would appreciate having Thanksgiving dinner brought to their home.
Thanksgiving morning bright and early we all organized for the meal preparations. There was a good feeling with all the boys sitting around a garbage can peeling potatoes and chatting amiably. We cooked sweet potatoes and big pans of wonderful stuffing. We roasted extra turkeys so all would have a good portion. There were quarts of gravy for the fluffy mashed potatoes, fresh rolls and pumpkin pies. We piled up generous helpings of all the food for each family. Our delivery time was 1:00 P.M. and we wanted everything to be hot at drop off.
Everyone was interested in the delivery so we all squeezed into two cars and drove to the trailer park, 10 minutes away. We all agreed that a camp trailer wouldn’t be a good place to spend the winter. Jack was enlisted to carry the food to each home. When he returned to the car we were anxious to hear who answered the door and how it was received. Everyone was gracious and thankful. One older lady cried.
The fourth delivery shocked us all. As we drove to the spot we could see the mom, dad and two children standing by a car—this was their home, for now. We were glad the food was hot, knowing they had no way to heat it. We delivered our last dinner and as we drove out of the park we noticed the little family eating their Thanksgiving dinner huddled around a picnic table on this cool crisp November day. Our group was humbly silent. We could only quietly gasp.
We drove home to a warm house and had a wonderfully sumptuous meal. Good feelings prevailed as the girls cleared the table and the guys went to the basement to scrub all the big pots and pans we used. It was just the Thanksgiving we had hoped for.
A few days later Jack decided to drive through the park to find out about the homeless family. They were still there. He talked to the mother and the two little girls. She said that they had moved from another state on the promise of a job that didn’t materialize. The father did eventually get a job but it would take a while before they could save enough money to rent an apartment. My brother left determined that this family would have a home by Christmas.
Jack stood with his hand on the door knob and a lump in his throat, not knowing if he could go into the neighborhood and ask his friends for money—his goal was $4,000 for a camp trailer. He went back into the house and knelt down to pray for courage and generous friends. "How much do you want?" they would ask and when he answered, "$200 if you can"—most would write a check. When I found out he was collecting money, he already had $3,000. I solicited donations in my church paper and collected $500. When it was over, $4,644 had been donated. A suitable trailer was located in the newspaper from someone anxious to sell. He offered a good price. It needed a water heater, plumbing supplies, and carpet—All was donated along with food from a local grocer. There was money left over—enough to help someone else.
The owner of the park said there was a woman with three children in a desperate situation living in one of the camp trailers. She had been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia and her ex-husband had not been paying his child support payments. Consequently, she was in arrears on her rent, had very little food and absolutely no Christmas presents for her children. The rent was paid, gifts for the children were purchased, and the remainder of the money went towards food for the two families.
The trailer was delivered before Christmas. When it arrived many people in the park came to help set it up. There was great excitement in the neighborhood that day but the man who received this gift was amazed.
"People just don’t do things like this," he cried.
My brother said, "You know there is a price."
"Oh, what is it?" asked the man.
The answer, "You must promise me that when you are back on your feet and you see someone in need you will help them."