In the past I have experienced the same feelings every Thanksgiving; full, tired, warm, and content with my family and friends around me. But this year my post-Thanksgiving feelings were different.
Back in 2014, my dad’s old partner in the police department started to show signs of schizophrenia, and unfortunately, he was fired from the job. After he was let go he lost everything: his house, his dog, family, friends, car, his mind, and he wasn’t heard from again. Seven years later my dad was driving through the city on his motorcycle and saw him standing outside of Crossroads RI, which is a homeless shelter in Providence. In shock and relief, my dad pulled over and struck up a conversation with him. They caught up and they talked about A LOT. He told my dad about the nights that he didn’t make it into the shelter before the doors closed and how instead he had to sleep outside on a bench if he was lucky enough to find one. He told my dad about how happy he was a few months back about an offer he received for a permanent bed in the shelter. He told my dad about how much he missed life. After being told so much my dad rode home and let it all sink in. Every word that he listened to sunk in and had an impact on my dad. Later that week he made some calls and then went back to the shelter to help his friend move out of the shelter and into low-income housing instead. When my dad went to help him transfer locations, he saw the room that his friend was so thrilled about; all it had was a small metal bed with a thin mattress on it, and bugs crawling around everywhere. That was hopefully the last time that both of them would ever have to go back there.
After Thanksgiving dinner, my dad and I brought food to the low-income housing building in the city where his friend now resides. When we pulled up it was a sad and unfamiliar scene compared to the typical Thanksgiving scene I was used to. People were standing on the side of the road by themselves outside in cold weather. While I was dressed up head to toe with a jacket and all, some of them were shorts and a t-shirt and some even without shoes on. Within a few minutes of our arrival, my dad’s friend came around the corner with the biggest smile that I had seen all day. I introduced myself to him and he asked me “how was your Thanksgiving?” and I selfishly replied with “it was good but there was way too much food.” As soon as the words left my mouth I bit my tongue. Before I could say anything to try to make up for it he said “well trust me, there’s nothing wrong with too much food.” WOW. How entitled of me. It was a reminder that I have to practice thinking before I talk. As he and my dad conversed, a man sprinted behind them carrying a big duffle bag, threw it on the ground, and then dove into the dumpster. I wrinkled my nose and eyebrows and tilted my head. My dad’s friend looked at me and said “he’s going to search the dumpster for stuff to eat, use, or pawn” and then he and my dad continued with their conversation like it was something normal to see every day. My dad later confirmed that it is something that he probably sees every day. Imagine spending your Thanksgiving looking for food to eat from out of the dumpster- seriously think about yourself doing that- how does that make you feel? I know for me it was one hell of a wake-up call to be more appreciative for everything that I have, experience, and feel.
As we drove away I watched my dad’s friend sit on the corner of a bench and saw his eyes literally light up as he uncovered one of the plates that we brought him. I also continued to watch the man in the dumpster search for anything and everything to help him get by. Tears rolled down my face as I took both of those final moments in.
I told myself that that moment would be the last time I complained about having too much food, about having no plans one night, and about not liking my outfit. I promised to try my hardest to quit complaining about trivial things because I know for a fact that any one of the people in the situations that I witnessed would do anything to be in my position, or in the position of any of my family members or friends.
So next time you complain about one of the following first-world problems, think about how pathetic you would look complaining about them from inside a dumpster on Thanksgiving, the biggest day of the year for giving and gathering.
- Not liking anything on the menu.
- A wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear.
- Blisters from new shoes.
- Not having 4G signal, but merely having 3G.
- Delivery that takes too long to show up.
- Having no WiFi.
- Not having room in the fridge for your pizza box.
- Your house being a mess from all of the stuff that you have.
- Having too much ice in your daily morning coffee.
- Feeling “too full” from eating too much.
Again, please be grateful for everything you have, experience, and feel.