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.