A FULL BELLY
Years ago, on Thanksgiving morning, I would take a short drive to the homeless shelter in the middle of town, where I would spend the morning not thinking about myself, but about others.
This is where the homeless went for meals, and sometimes lodging. On regular days, they would quietly line the streets waiting for entry. Most of the time they did not hold their heads high, but instead glanced downward, feeling anguish, regret, or embarrassment as they waited for the doors to open.
The reason I loved going there on Thanksgiving morning was because it was the only day in the year when the shelter was transformed into a restaurant style atmosphere for these men, women, and children. They were politely seated by a hostess at the door, received cloth napkins and metal utensils, and were served a plate of steaming food by a waitress, instead of standing in line for their turn. I will never forget how hopeful they looked when I served them the plate of pancakes, eggs, sausage, biscuits and bacon.
We were all thankful for the moment, in one way or another. I witnessed life as it was beyond my own limitations, and they witnessed what it felt like to be valued.
I spoke to the shelter’s owner who explained that most had an addiction or mental illness. Some were just down on their luck. But, on this day, they all stepped up their game, dressed up and wore their best of clothes, some even hats and closed shoes. As they waited in the line for entry to the Thanksgiving breakfast, their usually quiet conversations began to fill the space.
These years, when I served Thanksgiving breakfast to the homeless, were so important to me for several reasons. I was making a difference by providing a sense of hope. Surely one of these wonderful people would feel appreciated this day, because nourishment comes in the form of love and courtesy as much as it does from food. Through my actions and willingness to serve them, I reminded them of their value, individuality, and dignity. It is the same mission I carry today, just in a different way.
This is my reminder to you. You have great value. Your insights, desires, dreams and goals, have a place and a purpose, and you should never forget that. You may not be missing food or have a hungry belly, but everyone is missing something. For me, writing, positivity, and martial arts fill the void of the “something missing.”
Martial arts make you dig deep to accomplish, and you must always want to get better. Martial arts create subtle positive changes in you, and the world around you. If I sit at a table, my hunger is a desire to become a better person, and martial arts help fill that part of my hungry belly.
Year after year I visited the shelter. The same homeless people and families returned almost every Thanksgiving, and many never made it off the streets. They knew there was always a place to go on Thanksgiving, and I was there to share it.
My own Thanksgiving with my young family during the years when I served the homeless on Thanksgiving was put on hold for a few hours, until later in the day, because serving breakfast turned into breakfast clean-up at the shelter. It took hours, but I did it with joy.
I was grateful to be there and experience moments that I would otherwise never understand. My own personal struggles were diminished, but my desire to help change the world in some positive way increased.
As they ate their delicious breakfast, and sometimes finished their neighbor’s plate if anything was left, the homeless people thanked me politely, and stepped back into their outside world with a full belly, for once. They had their dignity, knowing that someone cared enough that morning to be there to serve them a hearty Thanksgiving breakfast.
Today, ask yourself these questions. Do you have a full belly? How about a full life? How about a life full of possibilities or opportunities? If not, fill up when you have the chance. It will give you hope and reason to continue in your own mission, dreams, or goals.
I live in a different place now, and I don’t serve breakfast on Thanksgiving anymore, but the memory and purpose always engulf me when I awake on Thanksgiving morning. Thanks to my own struggles and my empowerment through martial arts, however, there is one thing for which I am eternally grateful. I always have a full belly.
My new book, Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone: https://goo.gl/Yco5GF (Amazon Link)
My book, The Martial Arts Woman: https://goo.gl/rTSaJA (Amazon Link)
Signed copies available here: www.themartialartswoman.storenvy.com (My online store)