Giving Thanks for the Blessing of Everything

…and a little something else…

Photos by Pro Church Media and Getty on Unsplash

Years ago my kids and I spent a Sunday preparing and serving dinner at a homeless shelter. Our group made sloppy Joes, corn and mashed potatoes. While the adults cooked and set the tables, the young people prepared sack lunches for the residents to take with them the next morning.

See… the shelter guests were allowed to enter at 7pm and had to leave by 7am the next morning. They were served dinner and breakfast, then they received a bag with a thin, dry sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie, a box of raisins, and a piece of fruit. But it was winter.

After we finished preparing dinner, everybody gathered and somebody said a long grace. As I barely listened to the prayer, I looked at the assembled crowd. All kinds of people… clean and dirty… adults, children, and teenagers… people in work clothes and people in rags… heads all bowed, asking blessings for the hands that prepared the meal and giving thanks for what they were about to receive. I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t stop staring. I felt a strange pressure in my chest.

After the meal, in our car on our way home, my ten-year-old son recounted how much he had enjoyed his work and how good it felt to help people. Then he asked what would happen to the lunches he helped prepare. When I told him, he had questions.

“So they get up early in the morning and take a lunch and then what?” he asked.

“Well, some people have jobs to go to. Some just sit in their cars. And yeah, some just walk around or stand outside.”

“All day? But it’s cold. What about the kids and that lady with the baby?”

“I think the kids go to school…” I had no real answers for him.

“Oh. What are we cooking tomorrow?”

“We’re not cooking tomorrow,” I said, ignoring the ongoing pressure in my chest. “We might be back in the spring, though.”

“So we just come and cook for one day and then we go back home?”


“Mom, that’s not enough…” the disappointment in his voice was heart wrenching and I had nothing to say to reassure him. I kept quiet and let him absorb the lesson.

At home, full, showered, and comfortable in my bed, I thought about that prayer and how good we had felt about our work, and how grateful we were for the blessings in our lives.

And then I heard the furnace come on. Under the roar of the furnace, I heard the drip of a faucet and the hum of the refrigerator. Of course, I’m so accustomed to these sounds, I rarely hear them…

Slowly, I realized what that strange pressure in my chest was. Not gratitude for blessings, but guilt at how much I take for granted.

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