Okay, back around Halloween I was tagged by Marvin Wilson at Free Spirit to write a holiday story for Thanksgiving. I admit to an inward groan – between work, my Ravenous Romance books, fostering kittens and…well…everything else, I don’t have a lot of energy left. Posting here at the Den, Make Mine Mystery and Fatal Foodies pretty much sucks up any vestige of creativity I have left. But still…I intended to do my best to write a Thanksgiving story for Marvin and meet the challenge.
Well, I met the challenge, shook its hand and ran in the opposite direction. Not one spark of inspiration. Mind you, this past week has been a tough one for my fiction writing. I literally spent five hours working on my RR book and got one paragraph written. This is thankfully the exception these days and I figure I’m allowed one really crappy writing day once in a while, but when I tried to work on a Thanksgiving story, that was the rule, not the exception.
Marvin wrote a post several months ago about random acts of kindness that really spoke to me. Something I do believe in, but don’t do often enough. I was thinking about this post (which I looked for in his archives, but Marvin is so dang prolific I couldn’t find it, so Marvin, how about posting the link for it when you leave a comment!) this week and decided to act on it. I am the office manager at my job and responsible for ordering kitchen supplies. One of our managing directors requested Kashi peanut butter/chocolate high protein bars (the chewy ones, not the ones that will break your teeth if you don’t suck on them for hours first) and at first, they were devoured quickly by all and sundry in the office. So I did a ‘subscription’ order on Amazon to make sure we were always well supplied. Well, as is the way of things with people’s fickle tastebuds, I ended up with a buttload of these Kashi bars and found 8 cases (about 30 boxes of the things) that had passed their ‘sell by’ date.
I work in the Financial District of San Francisco, which has its share of homeless and transients. Not people begging because it’s easier than working, but folks living out of shopping baskets, layers of clothes and dirt hiding the people they used to be. People who have lost touch with whatever life they used to have. The kind of people who talk to themselves, who you do your best to ignore when you walk by them because you’re afraid of what they might do or say…or maybe because you don’t want to think of them as people who have lost everything. Someone you could possibly become if your life took an unexpected turn for the worst. Scary thought. And so much easier to ignore them and turn the brain — and compassion — off.
Well, here I was with all these recently expired sell-by dated Kashi bars, a new order recently arrived and a definite shortage of storage problem. So I gathered all of the boxes into a little shopping cart and, along with my fellow employee Rita, went for a walk down around the Embarcadero and Ferry Building and dispensed boxes of Kashi bars. At first we were worried some of the people might go off on us, would want money instead or just start ranting at us. But every single person we approached (one of us would take a couple of boxes and say, “Excuse me, would you be able to use these?”) took the boxes, then looked at us and broke into big smiles, then thanked us. I mean, big, genuine smiles, the kind that make you smile back. It sounds so cliche, but doing this made me aware of the people underneath the layers of grime, that each one has a story behind them. Not one asked for money, was hostile or abusive, and their smiles made me feel so damn good.
So I’m thankful. And not just because I’m not living on the street, although I’m definitely counting all my blessings about now. I’m thankful for every smile received that day and realizing it doesn’t take a lot to help someone down on their luck, even if I’m not exactly rolling in dough. Maybe I can’t hand out boxes of food every week, but what about baking cookies and giving them out? Buying a few extra items at the store, a blanket, water, whatever…and helping one person a week? Not ignoring them, relegating them as part of the background scenery.
Those smiles will stay with me for a long time. And I’m very thankful for that.