Thursday, November 22, 2007

We're Thankful!

This year Nick and I are thankful for so many things. Our family and friends who have been so tirelessly loving and supportive through the challenges of the last year and a half (hey, we didn't have the blog to thank you with last year!), our new home in Columbia, Nick's safe return from his deployment, my new friends here at USC, and, in general, always having everything we need. Speaking of last year, we tried to make this year an extra-good Thanksgiving since Nick didn't have one last year. You may remember that he was deployed, and sadly he actually slept through the Thanksgiving dinner at the dining hall.

We couldn't make it back to Texas, but that didn't stop us from being with our families, at least in spirit. We enjoyed the phone calls we got throughout the day to remind us that we were missed back home. We missed you too!

We started off the day with a true Thanksgiving classic, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Nick actually let me watch the whole thing. At around 2 we went to a Thanksgiving gathering at one of my professors' houses, also attended by lots of friends from my grad program. It's so wonderful that people are willing to open their homes to us poor students who can't get home. It was so nice, even for just a few hours, to have the feeling of gathering together with people you love on Thanksgiving!

In the evening Nick and I helped serve dinner at the Salvation Army. We had decided to do this a while back since we didn't want to make a big meal just for the two of us. Things like this really take me out of my comfort zone, but I was really glad to be helping out the homeless population here in Columbia.

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment, please. The city of Columbia has zero year-round shelters for the homeless. There are around 1500 homeless people in Columbia, and they are actually forced to sleep on the streets. The only time that they are ever able to sleep inside is when the winter shelters open up. I believe the nighttime temperature must dip below 50 for the city to open these. If these people have nowhere to sleep or wash themselves or spend time in a safe environment, then what does one think that the effect will be on the city? It is obvious when you are in downtown Columbia. You can't escape the homeless and they cannot help themselves. It's a lose-lose situation in the truest sense. Recently there was a sit-in of sorts at the Salvation Army, with about 700 Columbia residents choosing to spend one night sleeping outside as a homeless person. That event helped to raise some awareness, but so much more needs to be done here for these people!!!

So, it felt good to be even a tiny part of some kind of, if not a solution, then at least some assistance. We probably served over 100 folks, mostly men. Most of them were courteous and thankful, and as Nick pointed out, they are great conversationalists. One of the men at the table Nick and I served has family in Harker Heights, and he loved to talk about Central Texas, the Texas Ranger Museum, and his neice who is ten and loves competition cheerleading. Each person who attended the meal received a hot dinner and a to-go box of food as well. I wish we could have given them more.

Tonight will be a bad one out on the streets. We had torrential rains today and the cold front that you all (in Texas) are feeling now should roll into South Carolina later tonight. I pray that what we could give them tonight gives them a little more strength and endurance to brave the cold, damp night ahead.

I guess you always leave a place like that being thankful for what you've got. We certainly did, and I am thankful for experiences like that, how they serve to remind me of how blessed I really am.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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