Mara Shapshay

Mara Shapshay
Los Angeles, California,
December 27
Mara Shapshay is a writer/comedian/performer who has a BFA from NYU Film and an MFA from the American Film Institute. She just started her blog, It is her fake dieting site to encourage everyone to stop dieting. She is a stand-up comic who performs regularly at The Comedy Store, Improv, Laugh Factory, and many other venues. Mara writes for The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Journal, The Jewish Journal, The and Glamour Magazine. She can be seen in an episode of season 6’s Kathy Griffin’s – Life On The D-List. In her spare time she sues Jenny Craig.

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Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 23, 2011 3:16PM

The Homeless Serving The Homeless

Rate: 15 Flag

My first Thanksgiving after my divorce I thought was going to be my most awful ever but it was actually my greatest.   It really put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and made me grateful for what little I had at the time.

I think we’ve all had those times where the rug has been pulled out from underneath you.  In my case it was multiple rugs, a Persian carpet store if you will.  I was going through a divorce; I lost my job, got evicted from my apartment and was sleeping in my car in a Starbucks parking lot in Beverly Hills.  Stupidity, pride and his good friend ego had kept me from reaching out and asking for help from my family or anyone else for that matter.

               You see, my ex-husband generously kept the townhouse and our money and I got my clothes and my 04’ Camry.  Glad trash bags make excellent luggage by the way, spring for the Heavy-Duty Cinch Sak ones if you can.   It was a no brainer for me to volunteer at a homeless shelter that Thanksgiving, being homeless myself.

The first thing I noticed at the shelter was the amount of open space there was in that airy school cafeteria.  For the previous six years I had spent every Thanksgiving at my in-law's apartment, which could have easily been in an episode of "Horders."   It was very hard to find a place to sit in that tiny apartment with all of the boxes, papers and broken appliances blocking every door, nook, chair or counter.  Once, I literally moved three boxes of ratty dolls and copies of dusty Readers Digests just so I could use the bathroom.  The food was better at the shelter too.  They served real live vegetables instead of just a can of green beans thrown in a bowl and then microwaved.

My new "family" of misfits had more sanity than my in-laws, at least they knew they were out of their minds!  Immediately when I walked in a man wearing a blanket and little else, goosed me.  He took a big pinch out of my rear.  I can’t say I minded considering it was the only action I’d seen in quite some time.

I donned a lovely hair net and heavily stained white apron for the occasion.  I looked like a low-rent lunch lady.  My job was to shell out stuffing with a giant metal serving spoon from huge trays.  The stuffing stuck to the spoon so I would have to bang it on a paper plate on the table next to me between every serving.  Like a grandmother who survived the Great Depression, I kept plastic baggies in my purse and I would sneak servings of turkey and like for later.  Another volunteer witnessed this and said to me, “honey, you can take the leftovers home, and you don’t have to use baggies, we’ve got Tupperware if you want.”  I was so embarrassed but damn it if I didn’t take 20 bowls of food home, I mean to my car…which was home.

The best experience that day was meeting my friend, Moses, who looked just like Michael Clarke Duncan from "The Green Mile."  He was a gentle giant who had a wicked crack addiction but was trying to quit.  We sat together talking for the whole meal.  We had both lost everything and were starting over and there is something quite humbling and beautiful about that.   He said the wisest thing to me, "be thankful you've hit rock bottom, because the only view from there is up."  He was right, I'm grateful that my life was decimated.  It cleared away all the wreckage so that a new life post divorce could emerge. 

I eventually squashed my ego and pride and asked for help.  Many generous people including my family stepped up to the plate.  I give thanks to all of those who selflessly assisted me through those dark days.  I volunteer at homeless shelters for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, but now I have a home that isn’t on four wheels.  Also, you will be happy to know that I use Glad Cinch Sak bags for trash because I have real luggage now.


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Thanks for sharing an experience so personal. So many people in our nation are facing homelessness now, and telling stories about personal experiences with homelessness can diminish the stigma. In the Occupy movement in Salt Lake, I saw numerous homeless people serving other homeless individuals, which was truly beautiful. Many people were realizing for the first time in years that they could have an integral role in an accepting community. I'm glad that you asked for help and realized you had loved ones you could reach out to!
interesting story, but I think you need a decent lawyer.
house the people, living in the street
good expression of life through letters, but still there is a pain in this.
Great story, and what lessons to be learned. Thank you for sharing this, and happy Thanksgiving!
Wow. Great story, very powerful testimony the writer/comedian part better or worse than the homeless living in the car part...;)

Great piece of writing there!
Wow. Great story, very powerful testimony the writer/comedian part better or worse than the homeless living in the car part...;)

Great piece of writing there!
It sounds like this experience really was a blessing in disguise. Inspiring story well told.
You are rich from experience. Thanks for sharing.
a Christmas gift for my father, which one is better? ...
there are a lot of products on sale. Which one is better for 48 years old mom? Handbag,glasses or biniki? Please help.
It can happen more easily than some would think, that's for sure. It isn't very fun if you've had a life before either.
I admire your upbeat outlook and your strength in the face of adversity. Best wishes in the new year.