Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is the American day of gluttony, so I'd be remiss not to post...something.

I could pontificate on the three Thanksgiving dinners I ate today, somehow in the midst of a regular reporting work day.

I could write about how I ate a small, polite plate of food alongside casserole-shoveling firefighters whom I shadowed for the morning.

I could go on and on about the two smoked turkey sandwiches I savored for lunch, compliments of my Texan boss who shared a family tradition with us: Greenberg Smoked Turkey, Inc., from Tyler, Texas, Perhaps he shared the smoky bounty with us so as to keep us from revolting for having to work on Thanksgiving--not that we would because, like the firefighters, it's what we news people signed up for.

I could also elaborate on the healthy (*healthy-sized) plate I consumed at a coworker's apartment after work, a lovely feast with all the Thanksgiving side dish standbys.

But I want to write about a woman I met today at a Meals on Wheels program.

I arrived on scene at a local rehab and homeless shelter for women and children. There, volunteers had a veritable, Henry Ford assembly line going on.

But tucked away in the back of the facility's steamy industrial kitchen, a woman toiled quietly. A fellow volunteer called upon her to talk to me, "the news lady."

She scampered over to me as though she weighed nothing at all, even though she was, in fact, a large woman with gold teeth and smooth ebony skin.

Timidly, she told me just how pretty she thought I was. I could only think about the shine and sweat accumulating on my nose.

I proceeded, no nonsense, to ask her quick questions to elicit a sound byte for this soft Thanksgiving Day story.

"Why is serving your community today important to you?" I asked, obtusely.

She explained that a year ago, she had been a resident at the facility. Now it was her turn to give back as "kitchen manager" of the house.

To be honest, it's the kind of story I expected, or at least hoped, to find, the "personalization" to my piece.

What I didn't expect to find is a woman who looked so accomplished in a hair net. So proud to have a position and a purpose. Not a trace of shame in her face.

Unlike me and ever other insecure, over-achieving journalist, there was no hint in her demeanor that she hadn't done enough, achieved enough, competed enough, won enough...for her, directing a food prep team was just enough. Probably more than enough.

I asked her how she was feeling.

"I tell you what, the joy in my heart is just awesome," she said. "I'm just speechless. Speechless."

Speechless is what she made me.

Contentment spread across her face as she surveyed her happy staff, volunteers who had once helped pull her out of whatever mire life circumstances had thrown her in.

So today wasn't about the food, great as it was, or family and friends, great as they are. It's not about the full bellies, or even the hundreds of thousands of people who got hot holiday meals who wouldn't have normally eaten.

It wasn't about more stores hopping on the pre-Black Friday bandwagon, further commercializing the holiday for eager American consumers.

Today was about the reward of human progress, one woman's progress. It was about her delicious delight to see how far she'd come.

I am a glutton for that kind of simple, speechless joy. I can't say for sure if I've ever tasted it before. Today might have been my first whiff.

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