Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving Weekend 2004

Apologies to Ron, but I adore George Bailey. I simply love George least once a year.

Yes, it's that time of year. It's a Wonderful Life time, when George and Mary Bailey and their Bedford Falls family and friends come alive in our family room. George is a decent, generous, caring (if a tiny bit cranky) family man, just like....well, Ron. In my eyes anyway.

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 b&w film that celebrates the triumph of love, prayers and right-living over broken dreams, fear, despair and frustration. Actor Jimmy Stewart embodies the hard-working, compassionate George Bailey, and Donna Reed is perfect as the hopeful, loving, resourceful wife and mother. It's a shamelessly joyous tearjerker, and one of only two films that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. (The other is Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. A magnificent film with near-genius acting, but hardly joyous.)

Like past Thanksgiving Saturdays, Ron and I cuddled on the family room couch last night in front a blazing fire, and hung on every scene and story detail of this film classic.

It was a delightfully romantic start to Christmas season 2004.

For the second year, we spent Thanksgiving Day serving dinner to the needy and homeless as part of the We Give Thanks program. We cancelled our trip to visit Ron's parents and extended family in Reno for the week due to Ron's work pressures. We host the family Christmas Day gathering at our home, so I won't miss out on preparing a feast for our loved ones. We were invited to my sister and brother-in-law's home in San Diego for the holiday, but we just spent last weekend with them at my son's wedding.

We Give Thanks serves 10,000 to 15,000 meals to the needy and homeless each Thanksgiving Day in an Anaheim strip mall parking lot outside the La Casa Garcia restaurant. Frank Garcia began the shared holiday meal 19 years ago to give back to his local neighborhood. What started as a dinner for hundreds of the hungry has grown into a major event with corporate donations, live music, 1400 volunteers, months of advance planning, TV and newspaper reporters, fundraiser tee-shirts, appearances by politicians and a blessing by the Catholic Bishop of the Orange County diocese.

Last year, Ron, Andrea and I ladled heaps of steaming veggies and mashed potatoes onto plates. This year, we cleared and cleaned tables. And for volunteers (like me) with a gift of gab, it was a splendid chance to sit down and break bread with people who are alone this holiday. Most attendees were Hispanic families with young children, but many were obviously alone or lonely.

I tried to remove a plate of leftovers near a 20-ish man in zipped-up jacket and green baseball cap who was wolfing down a sky-high plate of turkey and trimmings, but he waved me off......he planned to eat the leftovers. Later, he walked away with another full portion in a bulging take-out container. I set a goal for myself to help the scruffy and shy on the margins of activity...the ones ignored by others. (You know....WWJD.) I asked a tall and lean, unwashed man if I could take his plate and trash from him. Tears welled up in his eyes, he touched my hand and muttered, "Thank you. I can do it myself. Don't do it for me. But thank you."

Our families are excited about our support of this program for the hungry. Last year, we told a few church friends, but they acted we were bragging and they felt guilty. We would have loved to share the experience with our church family, but decided to not tell anyone this year. We're not doing it to be admired. It's a pity though, that we can't enlist others without striking a chord of competitive Christianity.

Andrea told her best girlfriend and carpool buddy from school, a committed Christian who attends an Asian evangelical church in Irvine. Her dad called us Wed evening for the scoop. We were delighted and surprised when the Kenmotsu family joined us there for a day of cleaning, clearing and serving.

By the way, this is no sacrifice. The food is delicious, the music and dancing lively, the company gregarious and grateful, the afternoon sky blue and cool. It was honestly a pleasure and privilege.

Yes, the Christmas house lights are up. We're the second house on the street with lights. Ron and Andrea put them up on Saturday.

Don and Barb (with the 62" gigantic-screen TV) are hosting an old-fashioned Christmas Open House for the street on December 12. (Of course, I've been asked to bring my world-class fudge, and Andrea makes a mean snickerdoodle that they've also requested.)

Let's just must have their Christmas lights up before the big shindig or risk raised eyebrows and veiled comments. And the outspoken Irish Catholic woman down the street will simply give you her opinion of your lack of Christmas spirit. No beating around the bush for her.

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