On Nov. 21st MsIndependent assembled and distributed Thanksgiving meals to less fortunate families in the Houston area as part of Servolution, the volunteer ministry at Lakewood church. For anyone that has ever volunteered you know the warm fuzzies you get from helping others, but this volunteering opportunity totally transformed my mindset and quite possibly my life.
Now it's nothing new to deliver clothes and food to an organization over the holidays, but to actually see the faces of the people on the receiving end, to give them a name and a story, THAT changes everything. As the ladies of MsIndependent loaded up burlap sacks of food and frozen turkeys to be delivered to residence in the 5th Ward area of Houston, none of us knew what to expect. We left the church and drove past shops, restaurants, smooth roads, and a Starbucks every other block, and within 20 minutes realized that we were not in Kansas anymore. We had entered into neighborhoods none of us had ever been to that let's be honest, made us clutch our pearls.
Although these neighborhoods were run down and humble, the people that we meet were incredibly gracious. It was difficult to see such kind people live in such an oppressive environment. We met people that summoned all their strength to get up to answer the door to receive their meal, then immediately had to go sit back down due to health issues. We saw a family of 11 living in a crammed space where the children had to sit on the floor to watch TV since the futon couldn't fit them all. In every neighborhood we saw children running around barefooted, in socks, or at best in flip flops that didn't seem to fit, despite the cold weather. Over and over we were smacked in the face with the reality that we are privileged enough to be blissfully ignorant to the lifestyle of low income families. According to a 2011 article in the Huffington Post these families make up almost half of our nations population.
For every household we visited we offered not only food but prayer. There were a few prayer requests that really made an impression on me. One young woman in particular asked us to pray for her two family members that had advanced stage cancer. Almost the moment we asked if she needed prayer she began to cry and tell us what she had been going through. She apologized for crying but explained that she had been so strong for too long, and that dam of emotion finally had to break. I was so humbled to know that we had given her permission to unload, to be cared for, asked "how are you doing", and "what do you need", which means everything to someone who is weary from being so strong for everyone else.
This Thanksgiving I will be grateful that not only can I feed my face anytime I want, but I can also feed my soul, mind, and hopes with the great people I have around me. I am also incredibly grateful for the women I have meet in MsIndependent that have enriched my life more than they will ever know. I have the support and love of women around me that I could never be so good to earn, but that I humbly and graciously accept. People really do need people. What I saw from the families we served that day, is that despite their resources they were resilient, despite their lacking they were loving, and despite their plight they believed in prayer. They will remain in my prayers and in my heart, and this Thanksgiving I will be thankful for my eyes being open to the paradise that I call myeveryday life.