A part of what Little Brothers does for their Elders is to have Holiday Parties, on the day of the holiday. I've never had to spend a holiday all by myself (even if I haven't been with my family, I've at least had someone to be with), but most of these people would be completely alone. So having a party to look forward to is a really big deal for them. Besides the parties (three of them, at different locations throughout the city, all happening at once!), there are also nursing home visits and "in-home celebrations" happening for those who can't or don't want to come out for the big parties. It was a really busy day for Little Brothers, with tons of volunteers too.
I spent my day driving three elders to the North side party and then spending the party with them and taking them back home again. I hadn't ever met these three ladies before, so it was interesting trying to get to know them in the setting of a large party with several hundred people.
If I'm being totally honest (which I'm trying to always be on this blog, so don't worry that I'm lying most of the time!), Thanksgiving was pretty challenging for me. My strength isn't in being outgoing, the life of the party, and making relationships quickly. I'm more interested in the relationships that take time to build, really getting to know people on a deeper level, and meaningful conversations. Small talk and making sure that everyone had everything they needed and was comfortable and happy was pretty exhausting.
But it meant so much to these people.
For example, one of the women was pretty grumpy when I picked her up. As I was driving to pick up the others, she was sitting in the front seat next to me and complaining about everything. At one point she said "I hope no one asks me what I'm thankful for today because I don't know what I'll say." I immediately spoke up and said, "Oh come on, thinking of things that you're thankful of is easy! You are so blessed!" But everything I suggested, she quickly shot down. "A warm roof over your head?" "I have a lot of trouble with my heat and it gets really cold in my apartment." "A nice bed to sleep in?" "Oh, my bed is terribly uncomfortable and I have a hard time sleeping most nights." "Food? You're not going hungry." "Yes, but it's never very good because I can't cook." Everything I tried, she came back with something negative. Finally I just gave up.
Anyways, after the party, she had won some pretty flowers to take home with her and she was so happy and excited and I said "Hey, Carol, now you have something to be thankful for!" and she responded "Oh, now I have so much to be thankful for! This has been the best day I've had in a long time!"
That was enough to make it totally worth it.
Besides just being out of my element, it was hard to be away from my family and to not get my mom's cooking. At the end of the day, I came home to an empty house, which isn't my favorite. (Clarissa had invited me to come to her cousin's after I got done, but I decided not to because it was already late, I was tired, and I have a cold and wasn't feeling the greatest anyways)
Another thing that kind of bothered me was the lack of God in Thanksgiving. Little Brothers is not a specifically Christian organization - they welcome Elders of all faiths, which I think is a good thing. I certainly have conversations about God with some of my Elders frequently, but I'm not going to force anything on them. But it means that we didn't pray before Thanksgiving dinner. And that was really hard for me. What's the point of giving thanks if we aren't thanking anyone in particular. I definitely gave thanks to God in private, but a big part of the Holiday for me has always been giving thanks publicly and I really missed that.
And for all of you wondering, I am not working on Christmas. The staff of Little Brothers works it out so that some of us work on Thanksgiving and some on Christmas, so we can still have one holiday with family. I will be going back to Oklahoma for over a week at Christmas. I'm so excited for that!