Page three Random Acts

During the Holidays, Giving Thanks For Those Who Give of Themselves

(By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On one hectic and extremely cold Thanksgiving eve, my sister and I were crammed into the grocery store with what seemed to be hundreds of last-minute shoppers.

In the midst of all this, I noticed this shabbily dressed gentleman, presumably not bathed, pushing a grocery cart. My initial reaction was to steer clear of him, avoiding any eye contact. As I continued, I couldn't help noticing all of the seemingly happy families and couples with their carts filled to the brim, in some cases overflowing. The joy and excitement were intoxicating.

Then, I was hit with a harsh dose of reality. There he stood, the homeless gentleman that I had encountered nearly 45 minutes earlier, with a grocery cart containing a single item: a tattered old duffel bag. As everyone around him shopped, there he stood without one single food item. I realized that he had probably wandered in, trying to escape the frigid conditions, certainly not to shop for his Thanksgiving dinner.

I was reminded of how many people were not as fortunate as I was to be planning a wonderful holiday with friends and family. I turned to my sister and handed her $40. I was reluctant to approach the gentleman, but asked her whether she would mind. She not only gave him the money but added $20. When she approached him to inquire whether he had money to shop, he seemed reluctant to answer. I assumed that he thought she was store security and about to have him ejected. She took his hand and placed the money in it and said, "Have dinner on us."

He looked down at the money in his hand, then looked up at her and the people who were standing around witnessing the event. He placed his face in his hands and began to sob. I began to walk away. I could not turn and look back at him because I was too busy wiping the tears that had begun streaming down my face. As we resumed our shopping and headed down the aisle, I turned to look back, only to see other people approaching him with similar gestures. Yes, it definitely started to feel like Thanksgiving.

-- Theresa Henderson, the District

We were in a doctor's office at Children's Hospital, waiting to hear the results of the latest tests just completed on our 2-year-old daughter. A form of kidney disease had been diagnosed that would necessitate her being medicated all of her growing years, and most certainly she would be on dialysis as an adult. We knew the test results would not be good, and we were overwhelmed with sadness.

Finally, the doctor arrived with the X-rays. He seemed puzzled as he told us that there seemed to be nothing wrong with our daughter. The X-rays showed no problem at all! What had happened?

Then, I remembered. A friend had arranged a meeting for us with a group of people who were strangers to us. One cold morning before Thanksgiving, we met with these sweet people. They told us they were going to ask God for a miracle for our child. They prayed for us -- people who didn't believe in prayer!

And there we were, hearing the doctor relate what he didn't understand. A tremendous burden had been lifted. A new life for our daughter had begun and a new life for us. We were suddenly two people who "got it," who understood something profound. God indeed exists, and sometimes He works the miraculous. Thirty years later, our daughter is a healthy young wife, mother and businesswoman who tries to follow after God, a Thanksgiving "Eureka!"

-- Jill Harper, McLean


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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