Beginning November 1, all food purchases at our local grocery store accumulate "turkey points." If you have sufficient points by Thanksgiving, you receive a free 12-14 pound Butterball Turkey. I always receive the points, but I never need the turkey. Since we aren't having guests, we will grill a fresh turkey breast. Nonetheless, I pick out my free turkey and give it to a neighbor or to the church.
On Monday, I did some grocery shopping, picked out my turkey and got in the queue to pay. A woman in her mid-forties was in line in front of me. She was in jeans and sweatshirt (like most of us) and was well-groomed. There was nothing in her demeanor to suggest she was in need.
But some inner voice prompted me to speak. "Pardon me, but do you know anyone who might be able to use a turkey? I have one of the free Butterballs, and I won't be able to use it."
The woman looked at me with such surprise that at first I feared I might have offended her. Then she asked, "Are you serious?" I responded that I was, and a tear slowly came down her cheek. While we waited in line, she told me her story. She is a single mother with three children and had recently come on hard times.
"You have been sent by an angel! I told my three children this morning that we didn't have enough points for a turkey, and I didn't have the money to buy one, so we wouldn't be having turkey this Thanksgiving.
You see...my mother had cancer and this summer I had to quit my job to take care of her. I had to apply for food stamps for the first time in my life. I've never taken charity in my life."
The story poured out of her as if she had been needing to tell it for a long time. She went on,
"Mom died last month and it has been really hard. I haven't been able to find another job and this has been so hard for my kids. They try to keep a stiff upper lip, but I overhead my son telling his sister that it just won't be Thanksgiving without a turkey. I told him we could go to the Methodist Church for a turkey dinner. He told me Thanksgiving was for families and we are a family and we should have Thanksgiving dinner together at home, turkey or no turkey. Then he said, 'That's what Grandma would have wanted.'
Now you have miraculously filled my dream...to have a turkey for our very own Thanksgiving dinner. May God bless you over and over for what you have done for me and my family."
By now, everyone in the checkout line was listening intently to the story even though she had been speaking softly. The man behind me in line pulled out his wallet, handed her a large bill and told her to get anything else she might need for the Thanksgiving dinner. Several other people (including myself) did the same. The cashier told her, "Don't worry, honey. I'll put your turkey aside. You go get what you need."
When she protested that this was too much money and she couldn't accept it, the cashier said, "You're gonna need some for Christmas."
The woman was sobbing by this time, and hugging everyone in the checkout line. She looked at me through the tears and said, "You may not know it, but you are an angel. I know God sent you here today. I promise that when I get back on my feet, I'll do something like this for someone else."
Such a simple thing. A free turkey that I did not need suddenly brought a group of strangers together to help a woman temporarily down on her luck. I left the store feeling quite humbled and with a much lighter step. For this family, on this Thanksgiving Day, life will be back to normal. Those three children will enjoy a real Thanksgiving feast, together as a family.
HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING!!!