The meaning of Thanksgiving through a child's act of kindness
The art center was bustling. A long line of kids all wanted their turn to be next. Everything had to be just so before the next child could be called. Tina finished cleaning up after her turn. The construction papers were all in neat stacks. There’s brown, orange, yellow, red, the typical autumn colors. The googlie eyes, paste, and scissors ready for the next child. Tina finally left the table, please to leave the art supplies neatly organized for the next person.
It was her turn; Ashley finally heard her name called. She was excited to sit down at the table. Her teacher handed her the brown paper, now to cut on the lines. She took her time, not a hack-hack job for her. The body was done. Now for the tail feathers, any colors she wanted. First her favorite yellow, then a red. An orange would look nice. Then a few more, just to make sure there would be enough to cover her Tom’s rear end! Now carefully paste the tail feathers onto the body, don’t use too much. Paste the body down on the paper. Ashley held up her paper with satisfied grin. Good ole’ Tom Turkey was starting to take shape. A pilgrim’s hat, beak and a waddle all pasted in turn.
Mrs. Straton watched Ashley’s meticulous thought process as she created her art project. “Goodness gracious, don’t forget the googlie eyes! How would Tom Turkey ever find his way,” Ashley’s teacher teased.
She smiled at her teacher and graciously accepted the two googlie eyes and neatly pasted them down right above Tom’s golden beak. Ashley looked at her masterpiece. There, it’s done, she thought to herself. So she cleaned up her spot just as expertly as Tina had done for her. Ashley knew someone else would want to take her place at the art table. She couldn’t wait to take Tom home to show her mom.
With pride Ashley’s mom hung Tom Turkey on her refrigerator. There was a big difference in the turkeys from year to year. Her daughter was growing up, that was for sure. Ashley’s mom started dinner when her little helper skipped into the kitchen. Ashley wanted to help peel, chop, and cook but that would take forever. Her mom was too stressed and tired to be bothered. She shooed Ashley out of the kitchen. She felt guilty for snapping, but she wanted to get done before midnight. After all she justified, it was a school night.
When dinner was served Mom and Ashley finally had time for a conversation. They talked a bit about school. Then Mom and Dad started talking about their day. The television droned on in the den as the family broke bread. From Ashley’s chair she watched the news and tuned out the table talk. She recognized the bridge that she crossed every day to school. This time it was different. It wasn’t on the top. The reporter was underneath. Ashley had never seen the village that was under her bus each day. She couldn’t imagine why people would want to live there.
She strained her ears to pick up every word the reporter said. She was so focused and intent that she even missed her Mom’s question about having a serving of her favorite dessert. The anchors flashed back on the screen and asked the reporter a question. The reporter flashed back on and told them Frank was at that location. The screen changed again, there was Uncle Frank standing outside a mission. Uncle Frank was her favorite. He doted on Ashley to a fault. So she knew when she saw him she would get the whole truth.
When Uncle Frank showed up for his typical Tuesday night dinner, Ashley jumped into his arms and hugged his neck hard. When she let him go just a little bit, he saw a troubled look in her eyes.
“What’s wrong, Ashley Bear? What’s troubling my little pet?”
“I’ve got to know, Uncle Frank,” Ashley said, “What’s it like at the mission? What do those people do there? Why do they go there? There were kids, but why? Why didn’t their mommies make them go home for dinner?”
Uncle Frank was taken aback with his niece’s sincere questions. He thought with heavy heart that her thoughts should be on Tom Turkeys, parades, family feasts and having fun, not the sad side of the season. But in her blue eyes he saw that nothing less than the truth would satisfy his Pet.
“Ashley, things aren’t always fine and fun, sometimes families hit very hard times. The kids you saw were there with their moms. It’s not because they want to. It’s because they’ve lost their jobs or been sick and can’t work. It’s sad honey, most of them have nothing left. With no home and no food, if they didn’t have the mission those kids would really suffer. The mission doesn’t have very much so that was what the story was about; trying to get them the help they needed this special season.”
Ashley listened just as intently as she had when he was on the news. He could see the cogs turning in that blonde little head as she processed the information that he had just relayed. He wondered if he should mention the whole thing to his sister. Ashley was up to something, he just didn’t have a clue as to what she had in mind.
They sat down to dinner and Ashley asked for everyone’s attention. She had her plan and was ready to tell them part of her proposition. “I’d like for Uncle Frank and I to go on a Top Secret Mission.”
Uncle Frank looked at her quizzically. Ashley’s parents looked at Frank. With a slight shrug of his shoulders, they knew he was game. So they gave their little girl their blessings for her ‘Top Secret Mission’ with Uncle Frank.
She and Uncle Frank started making their plans once the dinner plates were cleared. He made the calls for his favorite niece, and called in some favors. He was thrilled when he told her she had all the proper clearances and everything for their ‘Top Secret Mission’ was a go.
On Thanksgiving Day Uncle Frank and Ashley’s best friends showed up early at the door. Not a word had been hinted or a clue of where they were going. Uncle Frank loaded up all the kids, and left Mom and Dad wondering what was going on as they waved bye. Mom figured that the ‘Top Secret Mission’ must be a gift to her with everyone out of the kitchen she’d get the feast done in peace. Everything would be ready when they came home.
Ashley and her friends were the youngest to help at the mission that Thanksgiving Day. Her Uncle Frank’s calls got them special permission to peel, dice, stir and mash. They washed, dried, and they even got to say the grace. Those kids gave all they had that day and served everyone with a smile. They laughed. They hugged. They played, and then they helped clean up.
The camera crews from Uncle Frank’s station came to the mission. While Uncle Frank’s little crew were wowing the crowd, Uncle Frank was talking to the anchors on the news report. Across town Ashley’s mom was watching. She froze and listened to every word. There was her Ashley serving the plates with pumpkin pie, her very favorite dessert.
Ashley’s Mom couldn’t believe her tiny little girl. The one that was so proud of her Turkey with the googlie eyes. It was the same little girl that had whined and cried to help her with dinner a few nights ago. The one that she’d turned away. The special little girl that was making her heart swell each and every day was on television with that sneaky Uncle Frank. She watched the news and felt the pride grow with every word. She’d get that Uncle Frank for not letting her in on the plan. But it wasn’t too late, she had a plan of her very own.
When Uncle Frank showed up with his tired brood, Ashley’s Mom had special treats all ready. She wanted to show her own appreciation for their special ‘Top Secret Mission’ to serve those in need. She watched the zombies stumble into the house.
It didn’t smell like turkey or dressing or that kind of stuff. It was something the kids would love, she knew for a fact. They entered the dining room. Their parents were all there. The platters on the table didn’t have turkey or dressing. It was pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers with all the trimmings! Not one person missed the turkey dinner. They had served enough of it earlier. They had the best Thanksgiving Day dinner of all time.
The art center was bustling again. It was the first Christmas craft. The children were all excited about the newest project added to the class. Ashley patiently waited for her turn. Finally, her name was called. This wasn’t going to be for her mom this time. It was going to be for Uncle Frank.
She carefully cut her tree shape, and chose from all the sparkly confetti shapes. Only the best would do and they all had to be in the right place. Once she was satisfied, she asked her teacher’s help. She wanted everything spelled correctly as she prepared her special gift. The note she wrote was simple. It was just a heart-felt thank you to her special Uncle Frank.
On Uncle Frank’s next visit, Ashley sat with him in the kitchen. She had her thank you gift in her hand when she asked about the mission, the kids, and moms that she had met that day. Her uncle smiled as he took the card and her answered honestly just as she knew he would. Some had moved on, some were just gone and no one knew where. He could see her cogs spinning again. He was afraid of what she would ask. She looked up at her uncle and asked if they could go back.
He couldn’t believe his ears. He couldn’t have been more proud. He hugged his little niece and told her that he was really blown away by her humongous heart, her attitude of service, but Ashley didn’t get it. It was something she had to do. It was just the thing that she knew and Jesus would do it too.