The turkey line stretched around the block. Men in workboots and straw hats. Women in mismatched clothing. Children playing with one another between families. Wheelchairs. Walkers. Hmong, Hispanic, African-American, white, all stood in line for hours today to pick up a free holiday turkey from our local Catholic Charities.
I have stood waiting at those doors myself in previous weeks and months. We were able to purchase a turkey of our own with federal food stamp credit on Tuesday, just in time to thaw for our Thanksgiving meal. This little bit of food stamp money was a last-minute addition due to a recalculation by the county. As I rode the bus past the distribution location, I marveled at how many people I saw in that line, how many had no other recourse for putting food on the table that is expected in all homes this Thursday. A turkey, some potatoes and gravy, stuffing, vegetables, bread. A pumpkin pie, perhaps. We might easily have been standing in that line. We had no other resources just a week ago.
In my home there are no children. Our daughter is grown and teaches English in Kosovo. That makes it easier for us to do without on holidays. My spouse and I have both lost our jobs, mine in 2008 and hers in 2009. My unemployment was exhausted almost a year ago, and hers is soon to be exhausted as well. We do our best on one small unemployment check along with some help from family members. And food stamps. It has not always been like this.
I was a substance abuse counselor and Angela was a group home counselor, but as state and local funds were cut, positions were cut, and homes were closed. There are few jobs available in our area and in our fields, especially since we no longer own a car. It was sold to pay the rent. There is no money left to interview or move elsewhere, and our area has been particularly hard hit in the aftermath of the recession. I don't know when it will end or even how it will end for us.
In this moment, however, I am grateful for federal assistance that made it possible to have a turkey headed for the oven. I'm thankful that I did not have to wait for hours in that line in order to obtain a holiday bird. I'm grateful for the help of my family during this time. I'm grateful to have a few friends with whom to share this Thanksgiving Day. I'm grateful for the Occupy protesters who fight for a better living standard for each of us. I'm grateful that Catholic Charities is providing turkeys to so many needy families who live here.
Most of all, I'm grateful for the connectedness that exists between all living things and the good will that is apparent among us on my favorite holiday.
Cross posted at Red Room.