Food everywhere! What a mixed up mess.
The church hall was filled with people. And boxes. And tables, on which were cans of cranberry sauce, and bags of potatoes, and boxes of ready-made stuffing, and packets of gravy mix, and more. Over on the kitchen shelf were twenty turkeys.
Well, twenty one if you counted that little, scrawny turkey over in the corner. They probably wouldn’t need it, for they only had enough food for twenty Thanksgiving boxes.
“All right, people!” Mrs. Becker, the pastor’s wife, clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.
“We’re running so late! It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and we haven’t even got this done. If everyone can just get in line. George, get the boxes on that table, and have them ready. Jerry, can you handle those turkeys?”
Jerry, a big football player, flexed his muscles and grinned.
“Okay, then. We can’t wait for my husband. He went over to the Shelter with the cakes we made for their Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.”
She looked frazzled. That didn’t happen very often. Mrs. Becker was quick, efficient, and always early. But this Thanksgiving season had been crazy. And instead of all the food being neatly put in its place as she would have liked, it seemed that everyone had just dumped it on the tables any which way.
Mom quickly directed Kelly and her three brothers as they found places in line. Kelly was in charge of cranberry sauce, Doug, the bags of potatoes. Brent and Matt would help with the desserts. Their friends, Karen and Kevin, were in on it, too, sticking Happy Thanksgiving labels on the boxes.
As they waited, Kelly’s hand went to her pocket. She fingered the ten dollar bill she’d saved. She had meant to put it in the Thanksgiving offering, but she’d forgotten it on Sunday! Kelly had brought it with her today in case they might need the money, but she saw that it was too late.
Much of the food had been brought to the church over the last couple of weeks and the rest had been bought with Sunday’s offering. They didn’t need her ten dollars. Maybe she’d put it in the missions offering next week….
Doug would say, “keep it and buy something for yourself.”
Matt would scold, “you should have planned better. How could you forget? They’ve been talking about the offering for weeks.”
But Brent would understand that she still wanted to give to someone in need at this Thanksgiving season.
Mrs. Becker had the people organized much more quickly than anyone would have thought, and they marshaled the items into the twenty boxes.
“There that wasn’t so bad,” Mom said, as the men carried the boxes out to the vans and headed off to deliver them.
“Yes, that’s better,” Mrs. Becker wiped her brow. “Now, to choir practice.”
Mom grinned . “We’ll see you later on for the Thanksgiving service. Can’t wait to hear the special holiday choir. Come on, kids.”
“Mrs. Loring,” said Jerry, holding up the little leftover turkey. “Didn’t you say you had someone in mind if this wasn’t used?”
“Oh, right.” She turned to Kelly.
“Jen and Rosie!”
“Yes. I thought they could use it.”
Kelly’s friend was very poor–even poorer than them. The Loring family didn’t have a lot of money, but her father had a job and her mother wrote articles and short stories. They had enough, even with six kids.
But Jen’s mother was sick, and her little sister was only four. Jen was the one that did the shopping and the laundry and the cleaning. There usually wasn’t money to cover all their bills.
“It’ll have to be later, after the service,” Mom was saying. “I have to take Matt to practice, and pick up Dad from work. The truck’s at the mechanic’s again. Come on, everybody—get in the car.”
“But Mom, Kelly and I came over on our bikes,” Brent said. “We were here playing with Kevin and Karen.”
“Mom, can I please go take the turkey to Jen now?”
“All right. If you hurry, and if Brent goes with you. I don’t want you two in that alley after dark. Can you handle the turkey?”
Kelly nodded. “It’s just a little one. It’ll fit in the basket on my bike.”
They went their separate ways, Kelly and Brent peddling as fast as they could toward town. The sun was getting low in the sky, and Mom was right about Jen’s narrow street. It got scary as the dirty, dumpy houses loomed large, and the darkness seemed to bring out all manner of people. Some were very nice, but others were drug pushers and gang members.
At the corner of the alley, was a crowd of people. The Homeless Shelter was lit up as people hung about waiting for the doors to open. They could be a little scary, too—and unpredictable–but as Kelly and Brent brought their bikes to a stop, they saw several that they knew. And there was the pastor, still there, helping out and chatting with people.
The lines would be even longer tomorrow as more than a hundred people would come in shifts for the Thanksgiving dinner. Kelly and her mother had made a chocolate peanut butter cake for the Shelter, and some years they helped the day before with the cooking.
“Look, there’s that guy, Randy,” Brent gestured. “Oh good. Looks like he’s getting some money.”
Kelly watched as a tall bearded man in a shabby raincoat, baggy khaki pants, and a winter hat with flaps, stepped into the street. A car had stopped, and the driver was handing over a bill.
“Thank you, thank you. God bless you,” said Randy, waving at the kids in the back, and tucking the bill into his pocket.
The Loring kids were about to move on, when a girl shot out of the alley on her bicycle. Just then a car coming down the street swerved sharply, and nearly hit her.
She wobbled past, then lost her balance. The bike toppled to the sidewalk as the car screeched through a red light.
She lay there, stunned, and Brent and Kelly dismounted quickly and raced over. Brent lifted the the girl’s bike, and Kelly helped her sit up.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I thought it was clear. I thought I could get across all right.”
“He came out of nowhere, seems so,” said an old man, who was looking on.
“I’m all right. Thanks. Just scraped my elbow.”
“You were lucky,” said another bystander.
The Lorings returned to their bicycles as the girl remounted and headed off, waving her thanks.
“The turkey!” Kelly gasped. “It’s gone!”
“There!” shouted Brent.
They watched as a boy raced away, gripping the turkey as if it were a football. He disappeared into the crowd.
“Jackie, you get back here,” a man yelled, and the kids realized it was Randy. He turned to the Lorings. “I’ll get him. I know where he lives!”
He was about to follow the boy, but Brent suddenly grasped his arm. He looked at Kelly, and as she nodded, Brent said, “No, wait!”
“He can have it if he really needs it,” Kelly told the man.
“Are you sure? Stealing! That’s what gives us all a bad name. I don’t believe in stealing, and he knows better.”
“It’s all right, really. Except—does he have an oven to cook it in?”
“He does. He lives in a tiny one room apartment. They don’t have much else but they do have a stove that works. There’s a couple of little kids and an old grandmother. She’d be horrified to know he stole it, though.”
“Everything okay?” Pastor Becker asked, joining them. “What are you two doing here at this time of day? It’s going to be dark soon.”
They told him what had happened.
“It was that Jackie Holden. I’m going to go have a talk with him, and tell him how wrong that was—and how nice you’re being about it. But—that turkey was meant for someone else, wasn’t it?” Randy pulled the bill he’d just gotten out of his pocket. “Take this for whoever it was.”
“Wait!” Kelly suddenly remembered. “I don’t want to take yours. I have this!” She pulled her ten dollar bill out of her pocket, and held it aloft. “I was going to put it in the Thanksgiving offering but I forgot it. We can run over to the grocery store and get a turkey!”
She mounted her bike excitedly, ready to take off down the street to the small market where they all shopped.
Pastor Becker held out his hand to stop her, “Kelly, It’s Thanksgiving Eve. The place is closing soon. I doubt they have any turkeys left. If they did, it would probably cost more than ten dollars.”
“Maybe we could just go see,” said Brent. “I have….” He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out four grimy dollar bills…and four quarters. “Five dollars!”
“Well, okay. Maybe you can make it before they close.”
They rode off down the block, and found the little neighborhood market packed with people. Fortunately, even though it was small, their merchandise was not highly priced. The kids knew the owners from church. They liked to keep the prices reasonable, especially since a lot of the homeless people shopped there.
And there was one turkey left! The price was twelve dollars. Brent reached for it but Kelly suddenly felt…something…in her heart. Was it God speaking to her?
“What?” asked Brent, perplexed as he lifted the turkey into their cart.
“Umm. I just feel that we shouldn’t. You know how God sometimes puts something on your mind….” She shook her head. “I don’t think we should get it.”
“Okay, if that’s what God’s telling you.” A customer stared at him curiously but Brent didn’t care. This was talk that a lot of people didn’t comprehend because they didn’t know God.
Again, Kelly was glad she was with this brother, who understood these things more than the others did.
He put the turkey back, but as she turned she noticed a stand filled with gift cards.
“That’s it!” She pointed, excitedly. “That’s what we should do.”
“Okay,” he said, willingly. “Here’s my five—get one for fifteen.” He paused. “I wonder why God doesn’t want us to get the turkey.”
Kelly picked out a gift card. “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s God or just me. But I really feel right about this.”
“Let’s just do it then. ”
It didn’t take as long to get through the checkout as they expected, and soon they were speeding back to the corner on their bikes. Randy was there, waiting to hear. At first he looked disappointed that they didn’t have a turkey with them. But they told him everything, and he nodded approval.
“God knows best. Sometimes I have trouble knowing if it’s Him speaking to me, too. But I think this is a good idea.”
As he headed into the Shelter for his supper and hopefully a bed for the night, they peddled on down the alley.
It was still light as they chained their bikes to the porch post. Jen happened to look out the third floor window, and came down to let them in. They trooped up and told the story.
“A gift card!” Jen said excitedly.” It’s just what we need! We don’t need a turkey. Someone gave us a big chicken and I’m going to cook it tomorrow. They gave us potatoes and carrots, too. They’ll be plenty left over, and I can make soup for Mom.”
“And they brought us a little pie, too!” exclaimed Rosie. “And whipped cream!”
“But this is perfect. I’ll go to the store after Thanksgiving! We need eggs and bread and orange juice and cereal and oh, we can get lots of things!”
“It’s only fifteen dollars,” warned Brent.
“Oh, but we can get a lot out of that!”
“She’s very good at shopping for bargains,” the little girl told them.
“Jen, who is it?” came a wavery voice from the bedroom.
“Mom’s awake. Go in and see her.”
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mrs. Gordon.”
“Thank you, kids. Thanks so much. Same to you.”
At the Thanksgiving Eve service, the pastor told about the cool thing that God had done that afternoon. And he talked about obeying when God speaks to us.“Sometimes we’re not sure if it’s God. Sometimes it might be us acting impulsively. But most of us who have been Christians for a while, know God’s voice. As we get to know Him more and more, we know what He wants us to do. This Thanksgiving let’s pray for Jackie and Jen and Randy and all the folks at the Shelter and those who received our gift boxes—that they will know God’s love in a great way this year. Happy Thanksgiving!”
“Happy Thanksgiving!” chorused everyone.
By Carol Bennett