Come rain or shine the month of November always shifts to December. Just like that and we’ve gone from fall into winter and from giving thanks to giving gifts.
One November we’d been given not just one big turkey but two from our employers. It made perfect sense for our young family of four to share this abundance with someone who might truly need it. After shopping for some additional groceries we drove to the apartment of a man who worked at a nearby community college. He’d moved here from Russia with his wife and college aged son and though his job was a steady one they struggled to make ends meet. They were grateful for a new life in America and that outweighed the humbleness of their circumstances.
This was not to be a drop-off and go situation as we’d imagined. The man welcomed us in though we arrived unannounced. Inside was an armchair, a lamp and a side table—nothing more in the small living room. No art on the walls or any sort of decoration. He led us into the equally diminutive kitchen, insisting that we take a seat at the table then began serving us warm applesauce that his wife had prepared. “Seet doun, seet doun, seet doun” he repeated over and over in his heavy accent. “Eat, eat, eat!” He told us how he’d buy bruised apples at a reduced price and if there were none he’d ask for any in the backroom about to be thrown away.
He then began unloading the bags, marveling at each item we’d brought. Never had he seen poultry of this magnitude and had no pan large enough to roast such a thing! He was so deeply appreciative and wanted to thank us in some way. He walked determinedly to the fireplace mantle and brought back the only visible item of ornamentation in their home. A little Russian church made of unpainted wood that fit in the palm of his hand. He insisted that we accept it though we flatly refused. He persisted and won.
Our family drove away in silence, unable to speak for several miles. There was no making eye contact. It was difficult to assimilate the outpouring of appreciation we had just experienced.
We had given out of the abundance that we’d received. He had given to us from his lack.