I tell people that I work on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to get out of attending family events. My family likes to have a Thanksgiving get together and my wife’s family does a big Christmas Eve event. An encounter this year, however, ruined that story, and I’m thrilled about it.
(Photo Credit: Chattanooga Community Kitchen).
At the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, we serve the homeless community every day. We are open 7 days a week, including holidays. On holidays, we host special events to demonstrate love and compassion for the people we serve and so they don’t have to miss out on social mores.
Like every year, we had a great Thanksgiving Day feast. It is one of the biggest volunteer days we have, and the staff who work during the event always have a great time.
I was on the front porch talking to some of our folks when one of them asked me how I got stuck working on Thanksgiving. I quickly retorted that I volunteered so I wouldn’t have to deal with family. Just as quickly, he responded to me by saying, “Guess that didn’t work. Now you’re with your other family.”
That wasn’t the response I was expecting, but it was a response I’ll never forget.
I found my calling to work in the homeless community during a short-term missions trip to Miami in 2012. I came to realize that I wasn’t living out what I claimed to believe. I was on a quest to know a lot about my faith and the Bible, but I wasn’t doing much with it.
One of the most important lessons I learned from Sacred Scripture is that all people have innate value because we are all made in the image of God.
I work in the homeless community because I believe the people facing the circumstance of homelessness are just as important to the God who made them as anyone else. They aren’t the least of these in our community like many might say. Rather, the Scriptures make it clear that they are the people of God.
I truly believe that all of humanity is linked together as one race, one people, one family descended from our first parents Adam and Eve. The people we serve who are facing hunger, poverty, sickness, and death are people made in the image of God, people who are just as important to the cosmic story as you and me.
I did spend Thanksgiving with my family this year!