Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my country. I try to be mindful of my blessings, but easily get caught up in the rush of life during the year. That's why I spend at least a few hours at a local food bank handing out free turkeys and trimmings. It makes me feel good and also reminds me that life is hard for many. I hear a lot of interesting comments at these events, but I see far more in the body language and expressions of those who come for help.
I was there quite early in the morning and so were at least 200 people lined up around the block. The surge of people was a bit scary when the doors opened, and staff reminded visitors to wait their turn. Any aggression was promised to be dealt with by two rather imposing security guards. Still, the hungry people pushed a little, anxious to get their share. It's this behavior from perhaps normally mild-mannered women and men that shows what desperation can do. One person after another held out there arms to receive the single or family meal boxes and quickly rushed out of the store. Some said thanks, others merely snatched the boxes and left.
About 30 minutes into my stay, I turned from the pantry to see an older Asian woman next in my line. She was so slight and so very dwarfed by those waiting behind her. She did not immediately approach the counter, instead looking at me while leaning slightly forward. A white woman bumped her shoulder from behind and said, 'Go!'. I motioned for her to step up and only then did she approach the counter. She walked quickly toward me and kept her eyes downward:
Me: Hi, happy Thanksgiving.
(The woman does not hold out her hands, instead she bows her head several times and clasps her hands together.)
Woman: I am saying to you thank you first. I am saying thank you for my family, very much. My husband is not coming here. He is ashame.
Me: That's okay, ma'am. You don't need to feel ashamed.
(Others in line become impatient and a few try to rush her on.)
Woman: (she turns to the others) Please, one moment. Please. You must not receive so easy. (Back to me) I want thank you and I want thank this country. I appreciate so much this country help us.
Me: You are very welcome and I hope you enjoy your dinner. You and your family.
Woman: Thank you, thank you young lady. I want give you this. I have pray on it for you.
The woman, so small, struggles with the large box for a moment, gets her bearings and walks away. Some watch her leave with curious looks. On the counter is a tiny white Buddha she left for me. Another person has already stepped up for his box.