Thanksgiving ham

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

When my family relocated from the prosperous San Francisco Bay area to a small town in southern Indiana, one of my first projects in my new Girl Scout troop was a food drive and distribution just before Thanksgiving. As an 11-year-old, I had fun sorting the cans and helping select a nice variety for the packages we were making up for the families.

The misty cold Saturday morning when we headed out to make the deliveries was my first encounter with poverty. Though I chill easily, I felt warmed by the initially dazed, bare-footed people answering their doors, who turned into gracious and animated recipients of the packages. The atmosphere that morning was steeped in dignity and grace.

As the bundles dwindled, we made one last stop, and I rang the doorbell. A thin woman surrounded by children - one on her hip, one clasping her leg, several others clinging around her skirt - answered. Her shy eyes lit up with gratitude as she wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. As I walked off her porch, I remember thinking how quickly all those little mouths would gobble up the cans of peas, carrots, and beets we'd left.

When I got home that afternoon, I was full of enthusiasm for the project accomplished and the mutual blessings it had brought. Surely, I had seen a whole new side to life, but more important, I'd experienced perhaps for the first time the deeply satisfying feeling of giving. I wanted my family to understand this joy.

My mother, who is easily moved, teared up as she heard about these encounters. With a genuine desire to help the family with all the children, she suggested that we, as a family, take the turkey from our deep freezer and deliver it to them. No one hesitated; so, off we went as I navigated into this part of town, new to my family. We delivered the turkey to the woman, now also moved to tears. But that's not the end of the story.

As Thanksgiving week began, my mother started her usual flurry of cooking and baking, but I noticed there was no replacement turkey around. Monday, then Tuesday went by without trips to the store or butcher. Whether I sensed that I shouldn't ask or I trusted that the grown-ups were in control, I don't recall. We were well into Wednesday when a large box arrived, marked "Refrigerate." We didn't get many packages like that, so there was great interest. And then Mother's happy tears appeared as she opened a ham sent by a customer of my dad's.

Only years later did I come to know that my parents had experienced a very lean year that year, and there was, in fact, no "Plan B" for our Thanksgiving dinner - no spare money to purchase another turkey. Yet, we were provided for. The mention of the Thanksgiving ham always got a grateful chuckle around our table.

It's more than a nice story. It actually illustrates a divine law that I've come to lean on over the years. Acknowledging the source of supply to be God, Spirit, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "... whatever blesses one, blesses all" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scripture," page 206).

Jesus proved this law when he fed the multitude, starting with a small amount of food but with an unlimited expectation that God loves and blesses all in practical, recognizable ways. No one is left out.

This is something my mother must have known from her daily study of the Bible, while she prayed to realize God's love for her family. This is what she lived as she fearlessly gathered her children into the car with the turkey to teach them selflessness and the safety of good deeds. I didn't know the particulars that day, but I was conscious of a deep trust in the reliable Provider. In my mother's eyes, we were not giving to poor people, but sharing a confidence in God's love with fellow children of God, who all deserve the bounty of God's goodness. There is no penalty in this heartfelt, spiritually based giving. Everyone gains. All are graced.

A hymn articulates this law to me:

True, the heart grows rich in giving;
All its wealth is living grain;
Seeds which mildew in the garner,
Scattered, fill with gold the plain.
Is thy burden hard and heavy?
Do thy steps drag wearily?
Help to bear thy brother's burden,
God will bear both it and thee.

("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 360)

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