Nudging the Boundaries


Fresno, California, US
April 11
Writer, Registered Addiction Specialist, civil rights/civil liberties activist


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 12, 2011 6:47PM

The turkey line

Rate: 14 Flag

turkey line

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. 

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Absolutely wonderful writing on such a serious topic.

"A+" says my former existence as a teacher.

"Incredible," says the me who sits here writing this. "I could never have survived like this."

But then again, you make it sound like how live is just lived, one day at a time.

I am thankful that you wrote and shared this wonderful, sad yet completely inspiring story.
A wonderful article, but then again I could never top what my husband has said. So I'll leave it at that. Wishing you abundance and love for the New Year. -R-
You have a great spirit! You are an inspiration. Rated.
And this is why I love OS. Thank you to each of you. It's so nice to have positive feedback. I've been so uptight about getting back to posting here, and this will really help buoy me.
Congrats on a well deserved EP and cover.
Thank you, Christine.
Leslie, this is excellent all round dear.
Your descriptions are dead on.
I know too well since I have stood in such a line myself.
I wish you and your spouse the happiest of holidays and I am happy to see the list of things you are grateful for.
may peace come to you this day on the wings of a dove and sit with you forever dear.
Wishing you great things ahead. Peace.
Sobering and lovely at the same time. ~r
Here's wishing you and Angela many blessings in the near future. Thank you for humanizing the very dehumanizing New Normal for so many of us.
Thanks for the great feedback, everyone. We bought two turkeys before Thanksgiving, and the second one is just out of the oven now. Cheers!
Daniel, you can survive in many ways you don't expect, if you are so required.
That you are grateful for so many things says a lot about your character. It is so tragic that people like you and Angela, people in helping professions, are losing their jobs because of lack of funding. And then, in turn, what happens to the people you were helping? This has all got to stop, and soon.

My best wishes to you and your family this holiday season
Sobering to realize how many families are so deeply affected by this reception. My best to you both, and may your job luck turn in your favor.
I feel certain that eventually this will all turn around. All we can do is keep trying. Thanks for all of your well-wishes.
I don't think it gets more "to the point" than this. My toast is "to better days - for everyone."
Thank you for dropping by, Owl, and I'll join you in that toast.
Hopeful that things will improve for you and your partner, and glad that you still maintain your wonderful spirit. take care.
Rita - I wonder about my wonderful spirit. It's very odd to see how people take my writing. I've been called quietly strong, understated, and concise, and recently I have become kind and generous. None of those elements are intentional, but it's cool to be seen that way.