November 2016 Posts

The Feeling of Family at Thanksgiving

During my childhood Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. Most often we would spend the holiday with my maternal grandparents in Longview, Texas – surrounded by my mother’s siblings and extended family. Papa was always in charge of the cooking. His cranberry salad is a must-have for all of my brothers to this day. Some years the day began with an early morning round of golf. There was always a TV on for James Bond marathon. Endless games of Spades provided the quickest way to get Mema worked up and laughing until she cried.

 

This Thanksgiving will be our second without Papa. Mema hasn’t been the same since her stroke several years ago; and was recently diagnosed with cancer. When I stop to process the gravity of this reality, I start my list of should haves, wish I’d have and ought tos… Why didn’t I make the time to visit more often? I wish my boys would have gotten to know their great grandparents better. I ought to make trip to see Mema soon.

 

My wife and I moved to Denver a decade ago, soon after being married. Our closest family was and is 700 miles away in Oklahoma and Texas. After we moved it was hard to get home for the holidays – especially Thanksgiving, due to school, work, life. From our first Thanksgiving in Denver, we decided that we would never spend the day alone in Denver. We had plenty of friends, transplants just like us, who couldn’t travel home for the same reasons. While our traditions differed from many of our friends (I’ll never forget my first, and only, vegetarian Thanksgiving); we were thrilled to spend the day with folks we cared for; many of whom we now call family.

 

As I think about this year’s Thanksgiving, I’m excited that we will be traveling home to be with my family. Lord Mema is with us; and we will hopefully see some extended family. As my two boys grow up I desire them to feel firmly rooted in their family – never in doubt of where they came from or who they are. At the same time, I want them to learn to draw new, wider boundaries around how they define family.

 

Family has a different meaning for everyone. And for our homeless guests at the Mission, holidays are often times some of the hardest. They think of family that they’ve lost or not seen in while and the one sliver of joy they may feel for the day is a warm greeting at the Mission.

 

Today, we served 600+ guests at our Great Thanksgiving Banquet. 600+ helpings of turkey, stuffing and pies. 600+ warm “hellos” from our volunteers. 600+ gift bags filled with scarves, hats and gloves. Our hope is that all of our guests felt that little piece of love and family that we all yearn for so much.

 

 

I pray that your Thanksgiving will be filled with lasting memories, and that you will be firmly rooted in your family and seeking new ways to make room for someone else.

Giving A Meal

A large part of my job as the Writer/Photographer is to write the monthly newsletter for Denver Rescue Mission and Fort Collins Rescue Mission. With the title “Changing Lives,” we always try to have the newsletter feature someone whose life has been positively affected by the work we do.

And, honestly, the stories aren’t that hard to find. With all the work we do here, you don’t have to search far to find someone with a story to share, whether it’s one of our staff members, guests, program participants, volunteers, or even donors.

A few weeks ago, I was working on just such a story for the October Fort Collins Rescue Mission “Changing Lives” newsletter. The woman sharing her story was Dawn (you can read it here).

I finished interviewing her and taking a few portraits at around 3:30 p.m., picked up my wife from a local coffee shop, then headed back home to Denver. The drive from Fort Collins to Denver is nice, and my wife and I love spending time together in the car, so it was great that it worked out that she had an appointment in Fort Collins the same day I did.

On the way home, we stopped at a Qdoba for dinner, and what followed was an ironic twist of fate.

I stepped into the line to order my food and noted that the man in front of me was wearing an Ohio State polo shirt. My parents live in Ohio, so I thought momentarily about striking up a conversation with a fellow Ohio transplant. But I’m naturally a little shy and introverted, so I decided against it. I had spent enough energy in my interview and photo shoot with Dawn that afternoon.

But as I was eyeing this guy’s shirt, he must have glanced at the Fort Collins Rescue Mission stitched onto the left side of my black Mission polo. I could almost feel him staring at me while I pretended to inspect the menu. I hoped the line would move so that he could step forward and stop looking at me.

“So, what is Fort Collins Rescue Mission?” his voice broke the awkward silence filling the short distance between us.

Grateful that he wasn’t just staring at me anymore, I began to explain how Fort Collins Rescue Mission is owned and operated by Denver Rescue Mission. I went on to describe the Steps to Success Program, the shelter for men and women available at Fort Collins Rescue Mission, and how the Mission was able to increase its work in Northern Colorado by adding the Mission to the existing work of Harvest Farm.

As I described the programs and services we offer in Denver, he started nodding and acting like he already knew what I was talking about. I said as much, and he explained that he is a Denver Rescue Mission donor already.

Surprised, I thanked him for supporting the work we do, and we chatted a little while longer. His name was Chris, and as it turned out, the Ohio State shirt was from his wife. She was from Cleveland.

Finally, our burritos made it to the cashier. Since we’d been talking so much, she asked if our order was all together.

“No, they’re separate,” I said quickly.

But as I pulled out my wallet, Chris quickly handed his credit card back to the cashier and told her to pay for mine as well.

In a small way, Chris gave me an example of how our guests must feel when they receive a meal from the Mission. He was already donating to the Mission, providing meals, shelter and more to people in need, and here he was giving me a meal as well.

I’m grateful for supporters like Chris. Because of people like him, I’ve seen people’s lives completely turned around. I’ve met so many drug addicts and people suffering who have been completely transformed by the power of Jesus in their lives. And it’s only possible because of Chris and other donors like him.

So thank you for the meal a few weeks ago, Chris. But more than that, thank you for joining the Mission in helping rescue people from the struggles of being homeless.

Robo and Chris

Chris and I snapped a pic after our chance encounter at Qdoba