Thanksgiving 2020

This Thanksgiving, 2020, was the beginning of hopefully a very, very long tradition for The HoldToHope Family. 2020 has been filled with heartache, fear, disappointment, panic, and every other negative emotion you can think of. Many lost their jobs; many became homeless because of the pandemic. This Thanksgiving, we were blessed enough to be able to serve 12 plates of Thanksgiving Day dinners to 12 homeless men and women.

During the holidays it’s easy to become caught up with our own families and our own problems, that we forget that there are others who need help. To be honest, we, the Yates Family, have been guilty of that ourselves, but this Thanksgiving, we were determined to help others. Thanksgiving is about family and being thankful; we believe God placed it on our hearts to share all the blessings God has poured out on us this year.

To be honest, the day started out a little disappointing. We had made plans with several homeless people to meet us at a specific spot to receive a Thanksgiving Meal. We got there, none showed. To say the least, we were a little disappointed, but we didn’t let that get us too down. We decided that if they wouldn’t come to us, we would go to them. So, we went on a search to find them. Within a few minutes, we found one of the homeless men who were supposed to meet us but didn’t. He had forgotten and honestly, didn’t even really remember us, but nevertheless, when we gave him the plate of food, he was grateful. But we still had 11 more meals to hand out. So, we got back in our car and went searching for more people.

Not more than 5 minutes later, we saw another homeless man we were supposed to meet, who said he had 20 to 30 people he was bringing. When we spoke to him, he blamed others and said that he can’t babysit them. In the moment, I have to admit, I was vexed. I mean, we just spent all day cooking for them, and they couldn’t even bother to show up. Then they’re gonna have an attitude and blame other people. I couldn’t sympathize or empathize until I started writing this. Even though this man was homeless, didn’t know when his next meal was, he still didn’t have the desire to meet us to get his free plate of Thanksgiving Dinner, nor was he grateful that we took the time to do so. I didn’t realize that I was him. This is how we are with God, except we’re a lot more ungrateful. God got off of His throne to take our place, and all we have to do is say we’re sorry and accept His free gift of Salvation.

See, we’re the homeless man in the story. We’re hungry, dirty, we have no place to live, no idea when our next meal will be, and God is promising more than just a hot Thanksgiving Day dinner. God is promising to take us home with Him, wash us clean, give us a new life, and make sure we are never hungry or thirsty again, yet we can’t even pray 5 minutes a day. We can’t even go to Church. We can’t even meet Him to accept the free gift of Salvation paid in full, even though He’s out there chasing us down, and we’re blaming others and refusing to take responsibility for our own actions. Even though we refuse to accept Him, He still leaves the 99 to find the 1. We’re the 1.

Some of us are like that homeless man who didn’t have the desire to have more, but others are like the next man we saw—a man who recently lost his job due to COVID-19 and was now living on the streets. We told him we would meet him at a certain area, at a certain time with a dinner, and you know what, he was there. When my Dad saw him, he called out to him by name with excitement. The man was stunned and just looked at him, saying nothing. At first, my Dad thought he had offended him, then the man spoke, ‘you remember my name?’

‘Ya, of course, buddy. We got some food for you here.’ My Dad responded.

He didn’t speak because he was so shocked that someone had remembered, not just to bring him food, but his name. When we gave him the food, he stopped talking and got very serious. He quickly said goodbye and walked away. He didn’t turn back around until we started to drive off. When I watched him, I realized why he reacted like that. This man had lost his mom 2 years ago and had stopped celebrating the holidays because of the pain. He had become homeless in April, and people started treating him like he was nothing. My Dad, a man who only met him once, had not only remembered to bring him by a homemade Thanksgiving Day meal, but he had remembered his name. He turned away, not because he wasn’t thankful, but because he was so overwhelmed with thankfulness that he started to cry. He was a grown man and didn’t want anyone to see him cry.

When I turned around, as we were driving away, I could see the emotion overwhelm him as he sat and started to unwrap his plate of food. Very few of us are like this man. When God comes to us, He doesn’t just come to feed us, unknowing who we are. God comes knowing our names, problems, fears, burdens, sins, and even the number of hairs on our head. We’re not insignificant to God. To God, we’re not just another homeless person on the street; we are the very workmanship of His hands. He formed us in our mother’s womb, knows the number of every hair on our heads, and when we run away, He chases us down to give us eternal life with Him.

Some of us react like this homeless man. We’re so overwhelmed by how much God loves us that we melt as He gives us food. We make sure we’re on time, ready for Him when He stops by. He wasn’t the only homeless person that was thankful. One woman told us, ‘thank you so much! I love you guys! You’re like family!’ When we left, she was sitting down, with tears in her eyes, opening her plate of food.

Another man had fallen asleep in the grass next to a parking lot. When we went to check on him, our heart stopped; we weren’t sure if he was alive or not. He wasn’t responding at first. When he finally responded, we were relieved. When we gave him a plate of food, all he could say was, ‘Thank you for thinking of me.’ This man had fallen asleep right around the corner from Journey Home, who were also giving out free Thanksgiving Dinners, but for some reason, he didn’t walk over to get a dinner. We’re like that sometimes. God’s right there waiting for us with our free gift of Salvation, and we don’t show up. When we don’t show, He comes searching for us. He goes out looking for His lost sheep; no matter how far we’ve strayed and no matter what mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, God still comes to find us so that we won’t go hungry.

Thanksgiving has come and gone in the blink of an eye, but that isn’t the only time we can think of others. 2020 isn’t over yet, but you don’t have to cook 12 meals and go searching for homeless people to pay it forward. All you have to do is something kind for another person. Remember all the ways you have been blessed this year, and focus on that. It was found in several studies that those who practice gratitude and thankfulness actually saw physical health benefits:

    • They are happier
    • They exercise more
    • They sleep better
    • They have stronger immune systems

When God blesses you, bless others, and God will bless you even more.

Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days.

Ecclesiastes 11:1

In other words, you will receive what you put into life. When God blesses you, and you bless others, He will bless you even more. You don’t have to give away everything, but don’t forget others who are in need. God Bless you and your family. And Happy Thanksgiving!

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