Homeless on Thanksgiving

“Camile, Melanie, Rachel, Erica, Vernon, Brittany, come downstairs and help get this house ready!” my mom shouted.
The six of us begrudgingly strolled down the stairs knowing that, for the remainder of Wednesday evening, we would have to help clean the house in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.

We dusted. We mopped. We vacuumed. We cleaned the mirrors. We emptied all of the garbage cans. The list was endless. The entire time we complained that we felt like modern day slaves. We even threatened to call DCFS. Of course, like any good parent, she encouraged us to go ahead and call.

Thanksgiving morning always entailed getting dressed in our Sunday best and going to church to hear my dad deliver the Thanksgiving message. We would have preferred to sleep late, but we were the preacher’s kids-so there was no Thanksgiving respite for us.


Once we returned from church, my mom would quickly put the finishing touches on the meal. The smell of homemade rolls, ham, turkey, dressing and my mom’s famous peach cobbler wafted through the air as we set the table and did last minute chores. Of course some of us searched for ways to mysteriously disappear until dinner was ready. It was always the perfect time to take a nap…beneath the basement stairs.


Many years my parents invited members of our church to dinner. Sometimes they were old family friends but oftentimes they were new members who were homeless and/or single with no families of their own. As children we resented many of these guests because we didn’t really know them. Indeed, dinner topics became more formal, and leftovers were not as plentiful: My mom always encouraged guests to take “to-go” plates. Some guests came with Tupperware for this express purpose while others packed up enough food to feed their families for the remainder of the year. Worse yet, more guests meant more dishes. Dishes that we had to do! I can still picture the mounds of dishes that had to be hand-washed. I honestly believe it was my mom’s goal to use EVERY single “good” dish in the house during Thanksgiving dinner. And, to make matters worse, she was not a fan of the dishwasher.


Now that I am older, I appreciate my parents for opening our home to countless men and women. I appreciate the extra care and attention they took to make sure our home was inviting. Their hospitality and generosity taught us valuable lessons about kindness and the importance of sharing what we have with others.

This year in keeping with the tradition of giving to others, I donated food to Maxwell’s school to help feed another family. I also purchased a few gifts, while at the store with Max, to give to children at our local shelter. As parents it is important that we not only tell our children how they should treat others, but that we demonstrate it. Words without action do not resonate as clearly with children. So this year I am thankful for parents who were committed to showing my siblings and I what Thanksgiving really means.

What holiday traditions do you and your family share? Have you found ways to share with others? If so, how?

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12 thoughts on “Homeless on Thanksgiving

  1. Happy Thanksgiving! Since I am a sewing class dropout, would you be interested in showing me how to complete the project for which I brought materials for my class? Or…sewing it for me for a fee? In case the WordPress name is misleading, I am not a random stranger but your friend from DJJ lol. – MG

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  2. Beautiful story as usual, very well written. We have similar stories as far as the cleaning before & after. I HATED WASHING DISHES. My family tradition has always been partying together after eating, we listen to music, dance, sing, have lip singing contests, etc. My family for as long as I can remember always have guests over that may not me “family” but we welcome friends & friends of friends into our fold & they become family. We share our food & hospitality with everyone. I have since carried on the tradition of giving through volunteering, donating or just extending our home & hospitality to others.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I remember being at the Lindsey house one holiday and I helped wash some of those dishes. I love washing dishes by hand… strange huh? Enjoy your holiday. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  4. Thanks for sharing. I remember being at the Lindsay home one holiday and actually helping to wash some dishes. Your dad was like “that’s okay”. He wanted to make sure I was getting them very clean. My dad taught me how to spotlessly wash crystal glasses. I was like “look Pastor, I got this. I love to wash dishes. The water relaxes me.” Strange…huh? He actually let me wash dishes.

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    1. I’m sure we were glad you washed the dishes. I’ve always hated washing dishes and as a result I use my dishwasher constantly! Thanks for reading and I’m glad you had dinner in our home. Happy Thanksgiving.

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