November 20, 2009

What Can I Do? What Can You Do? What Can We Do Together?

So you all know I like to cook. I come from a family that loves food and has about a million wonderful recipes all year long -- so as you can imagine, the holidays are a pretty good time of year. Well, not really for my waistline, but hey that's not the point right now, is it? My family has always served some pretty traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, and whether my mom was cooking, or one of my aunts, or grandmas -- it didn't matter, I always knew I could count on Thanksgiving to be amazing.

One year while living in Los Angeles I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for some friends by myself (OK full disclosure: I let Whole Foods cook the turkey and stuffing, but dammit, I made all the side dishes) and it was really quite comforting to be able to recreate some of the tastes of home, even though I wasn't. Food definitely is a powerful emotional currency -- ask any toddler who has been threatened with 'No Dessert' -- and although I did miss having my family sitting there with me wearing our special "stretch as you grow pants" and complaining that Lordy, we could not eat another bite if you paid us -- oh but wait, there's pie? -- OK, well maybe just a little slice, I mean it's Thanksgiving after all -- I felt lucky that I could create that same environment for my friends with just a few strategically prepared things. If you can't have your whole family together at home to celebrate, it's at least comforting to have a special meal.

So what about all those who don't have that good food and family, or hell, even a selection of the "stretch as you grow" pants of which I am so fond? What are their options on Thanksgiving -- the most comforting and gluttonous day of the year? (Also the 2nd most effluent if you want to know the truth. Only Super Bowl Sunday is worse, but you know, that's neither here nor there right now. I'm sorry, poop talk makes me laugh. I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy and I can't make it stop.)

ANYWAY. Back to the subject at hand.

As you probably know, homelessness is a big problem in Sacramento. You may recall hearing about all the tent cities on this little show called Oprah a while back, and there is no time that I feel a more pressing urge to Do Something, than during the holidays. What is hard for me is to see beyond the enormous big picture. I know that I can't solve the problem of homelessness. I know that I can't find all these people homes. That I can't find them safe places, warm beds, or good hospitals, if that is what they need. And it's heart breaking to me that those problems are too big for me to solve. But I'll tell you what I can do -- I can cook a mean a dinner -- and this Thanksgiving, that is just what I am planning on doing. For over a hundred people. Holy moses, what have I gotten myself into?

This Thanksgiving, my family, my boyfriend, and my friend Courtney are cooking what should be an amazing dinner for St. John's Shelter here in Sacramento. St John's Shelter is a homeless shelter for women and children whose sole purpose is to help women go from a state of crisis to self sufficiency by partnering with community resources that help reintegrate them into society in under 90 days. It is a wonderful program, and serving dinner there as a part of my involvement with Junior League of Sacramento has been a moving experience for me, so this year I thought -- why the heck not do Thanksgiving Dinner, since it is one of the most treasured meals that I am lucky enough to have each year.

Now I know not everyone can run out and ditch their families on Thanksgiving -- even though some of you might want to. Dysfunctional Families For The Win? I dunno. However, there are plenty of things you can do from that cozy little chair where you are sitting right this second. For example, if you are feeling generous, St. John's has an Amazon Wish List that automatically sends your purchase right to their door, or if you are local, maybe you'd consider volunteering to serve lunch or dinner? I can tell you from experience that doing this is so much more rewarding than you would even think. And it already sounds pretty rewarding! St. John's also happily accept monetary donations, and seriously every little bit helps. Just as a side note, St John's has a budget of 25 cents per person per meal without the help of others (Holy Budget Batman, did your brain just explode trying to plan a 25 cent meal? Because mine totally did.)-- so just think how far your $5 or $10 or $20 could go? I spent $4 on a peppermint mocha yesterday (which doesn't include the $40 parking ticket that I received along with it in the process -- ARGH), and boy do I feel like kind of a dork when I think of how many warm meals that could have provided to women and children in crisis.

So here's the deal -- I'm not trying to get preachy on you and tell you to go out and support my cause just because I support it (Next I'll be telling you to jump off a bridge just because I'm jumping off of it!) But I guess what I am saying, (a point! I do have one!) is that in the spirit of the holidays -- maybe just take a moment to think about areas in your life where you have abundance, and then figure out how you can share that abundance in your own community. Often times it doesn't take much but a little forethought to make a big impact. I provided those links above, because if you are anything like you me you are willing to Do Something, but often just don't know how to make it happen. So, you know, to my fellow overwhelmed friends with good hearts -- here are a few opportunity with St. John's to make a differences. But if that doesn't speak to you -- that's cool too -- I mean we all have our own priorities and causes that are near and dear to our hearts. So today, do a little internet research (if you are at work -- they typing will make you sound busy, right?) and check out your local resources today.

After all, 'tis the season, right?

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