Updated: Apr 29
It was Thanksgiving Day, 1998, and at an absurd hour in the morning, I hopped in my truck with my two boys, ages 7 and 9, to deliver meals to local families in need. A local radio station, partnering with a popular restaurant in town, had organized this event for a few years now and invited listeners to join them in carrying out this generous act of love and compassion.
The need was great, as the goal was to distribute over 1,000 meals throughout the county in a matter of hours. The call went out for people to prepare, cook, package, coordinate, and deliver meals consisting of turkey with gravy, green beans, stuffing, a dinner roll, and a slice of pumpkin pie. Each meal also included a napkin and utensils for those in a desperate situation of need.
I wanted my sons to experience the interaction with these families in an unfortunate situation first-hand. I felt the impact from this event would help them understand a grim reality of our world that few want to acknowledge exists and fewer yet want to help eradicate.
About 40 minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant and a flurry of activity was happening all around us. We parked what seemed like a half-day hike away from the building as it appeared the turnout of volunteers was more than anticipated. When we reached the building where all of the magic was taking place, we entered an atmosphere of chaotic energy as dozens of people were moving about, with earnest. These people were on a mission, and we were about to join forces.
It only took a matter of seconds to locate the on-site coordinator of the bedlam, and we registered our desire to help. When I told the Wonder-Woman of our desire to deliver meals she immediately asked the area that we wanted to deliver to, as many people wanted to stay close to home so they could return in time for their own scheduled festivities.
I found the question odd as I thought they would assign a route based upon need. When I told her we would go wherever she needed, her world stopped, and I thought she was going to pass out. She regained her composure and calmly stated that she was having a challenge finding people to go to a specific area of the county that was the most poverty stricken.
This area, widely known for violent crime, was another 45-50 minutes northwest of our current location, putting us more than an hour and a half away from home. This meant that it would more than likely be early afternoon by the time we made it back to our planned celebration. Not batting an eyelash, I said we’d take it. She almost cried.
About 15 minutes later the three of us were carrying 14 meals to the truck with a list of names, addresses, number of family members in each household, and a map. The adventure was about to commence and my boys were very excited.
We made our way to the designated area, and even I was shocked at what I saw. We delivered meals to houses that did not have front doors or windows. One home had a closet just inside the structure with a curtain and a bucket, presumably used as a bathroom. The impact this made on me, yet alone my kids, was profound.
The recipients of these hot meals were beyond grateful. They expressed this appreciation with meager words, but you could see the deeply felt feelings in their eyes. Back in the truck heading for our next stop, we would have a conversation about what we saw at the previous stop. The realization of how my young boys were processing what they saw created a deep sense of pride within my soul.
We were nearing the end of our route and we had three meals left. The address was clear as a bell but nothing seemed to correlate to the map we were provided. We drove around the area for about ten minutes looking for an address that just did not exist. I was beginning to get discouraged as I had run out of ideas and felt that the morning would be ruined if we could not finish our deliveries with everyone getting fed.
Then, walking across the street was a 30-something year-old man wearing a Washington Redskins football jacket. He moved with a sense of purpose which led me to believe that he resided in the neighborhood. Reluctantly, out of a sense of fear for our safety, I called out to the young man to ask for help.
He quickly came to my truck window and I showed him the name of the man we were looking for and the address that seemed not to exist. He looked around as if in thought, then looked at the paper again. He began to register a look of understanding and told me to follow him.
He started running across the street and turned the corner. I sped up to keep him in sight, but he was taking short cuts through yards and crossing streets then turning corners such that I have to move slower just for safety, Finally, he stood in front of a teal colored one-story structure that resembled a small warehouse rather than someone’s home.
“He live here,” he said. “Right here. Here the man you lookin’ for.”
Sure enough, our man was there. He was in a wheelchair, hooked up to an IV drip, and had a nurse tending to his needs. He insisted he only needed two meals – one for him and one for his nurse – so we spent a few minutes chatting with the man, then headed back to the car with one extra meal.
We quickly searched for the kind man that traveled halfway across town, on foot, to help us complete our mission. The problem was, we could not find him anywhere. We even stopped to ask people on the street if they had seen our friend, giving a detailed description to them down to the type of sneakers he was wearing. No one knew this man nor had they seen anyone coming close to the description.
We left town, heading home, to gather with family and close friends to enjoy a homemade dinner and give thanks for all of our blessings. We also prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for sending us an angel when we were completely lost so that the man and his companion would have a hot meal to enjoy on this special day.
And it’s funny to consider, there is at least one angel in Heaven that is a Redskins fan. Perhaps God is not as big a fan of the Cowboys like everyone thought.