I have a lot of great memories of Thanksgiving, a holiday that was always marked by great food and a feeling of happiness in my house.
But it wasn't anywhere near my house where my favorite Thanksgiving memory happened.
I don't remember her name. But she belonged to our church and we all heard the story of how she'd lost her job and had a couple young kids and was barely managing to pay the rent on the small house she was renting in downtown Renton. While she was getting back on her feet, she definitely was going to have a sparse Thanksgiving, with no traditional food for herself or her kids.
My class in Sunday School discussed the situation, and our teacher suggested we help out, so we found folks to donate a small turkey and all the other makings of a good Thanksgiving dinner, including all the ingredients for dessert. We also tossed in other staples for later use, I seem to recall. We put it all in a very large box, then tried to decide how to deliver it.
None of us wanted to be praised, so we decided to leave it on her porch. But the neighborhood! We thought it would be best if she found it right away. So we decided to leave it on her porch and ring the doorbell and run. Yeah, it was silly, but we were silly teenagers.
Two of us got the box to the porch that night before Thanksgiving, and then I was picked to knock on the door because I boasted that I could do it without getting caught. The token adult driving the car had simply shook her head in amusement and said nothing.
As soon as everyone else was safely in the car, I pounded the door then jumped into the bushes at the side of the porch and raced to the corner. The car met me there, and I tumbled in as we drove off. I had heard the door open as I ran across the lawn.
But we had a distinct sense of incompleteness, so the driver drove around the block so we could check to see if the box was picked up. It was, and best of all, we could see into the window -- and burned into my memory forever is the image of the mother standing in the window, looking down at the box on a table in front of her, pulling out the items to look, while the kids jumped up and down in excitement around her. I will never, for as long as I live, forget the expression of wonder on her face. It was hope, and gratitude, and joy.
And she didn't have to bow down and thank anyone, didn't have to humble herself to us. At that moment she returned my door pounding and goofy run a millionfold. I daresay I got much more out of it than she did. Giving often works that way.