For many, at the end of Thanksgiving Day, “tomorrow” doesn’t just mean Friday. It means all 364 days until next Thanksgiving.
That day of giving thanks is the day there is no hunger, at least for those who can make it to a rescue mission, homeless shelter, or public feeding program. Mashed potatoes and gravy for all, complete with oven-roasted turkey and canned cranberry sauce. The smell of the melted butter on the corn and the taste of sweet pumpkin pie with ice cream lingers long after the meal itself is complete.
Everyone is smiling and happy, like the set of some 1960’s family television show. Volunteers, with their wonderful smiles, scoop food onto paper plates. They pour as much soda and bottled water as their guests can drink. It’s so great for them to spend a part of their Thanksgiving providing food to those who are homeless.
Some in the line are lucky enough to be served by famous faces, while public relations agents steer news crews toward the celebrities scooping mashed potatoes. Without the magic of lighting and professional make-up artists, they look just like everyone else.
And, yes, there are even political leaders wielding serving spoons. This is often the one day out of the year that political officials spend a few hours serving and talking with their most vulnerable constituents.
Of the 365 days a year spent sleeping on the streets, Thanksgiving must be one of the best—a full stomach, real conversation with other people, and celebrities and politicians providing the royal treatment.
But after the trays of turkey and bowls of mashed potatoes are empty, after all the volunteers return to their families to celebrate a “real” Thanksgiving meal, the magic of Thanksgiving comes to an end.
Tomorrow has come.
Some of the volunteers join Black Friday shopping lines. Some even set up tents along the sidewalk so they can comfortably wait through the night for the mall doors to open. They’ve got to nab that flat-screen television, with its 50% discount.
Those who were served meals also head to tents on the sidewalk, but under very different circumstances. They hole up for warmth until government officials tire of their unsightly camps and send in the cavalry, also known as law enforcement, to clean up the streets.
Real life takes place “tomorrow,” in the 364 days after Thanksgiving.
Throughout the year, many savor that one meal at which they were treated like royalty and talked to like true citizens of this fine city. For one day, celebrities acted like their groupies and politicians spoke with them like they were millionaire donors.
It reminds me of the way I felt when, as a small child on the day after Christmas, I told my mother, “I wish every day was Christmas Day!” I’m sure many of our neighbors living on the streets right now are wishing every day was like Thanksgiving Day.
Of course, it could be.
There might not be any celebrities or millionaire donor treatment, but every day could potentially bring the joy of living a respected and dignified life.
The truth is, that feeling is not the result of a feast once a year. Every day becomes Thanksgiving Day once that person served in the food line receives the keys to his own apartment.
Then he (or she!) can honestly and enthusiastically say, “I can’t wait until tomorrow!”