By BENJAMIN PRATT
Author and Columnist
Gulf breezes blew gently across Destin Harbor and through the open windows of Harbor Docks restaurant, blending with the sweet and savory smells of the Thanksgiving Day Benefit Dinner.
Charles and Carla Morgan and the Harbor Docks team have once again, as every year since 1994, donated the meal, preparations and the restaurant to the entire community for a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings. This meal is the largest fundraiser of the year for Habitat for Humanity in Okaloosa County and for Destin Harvest, a local supplier to area food banks. This year the Morgans and their staff, along with 200 plus volunteers, served 2012 meals and raised $24,072.71. By any measure, this is a gracious, generous celebration of gratitude.
This is the season of gratitude. Every year, the period from Thanksgiving through New Years Day is a special time when millions of Americans feel moved to join the volunteer workforce assuring that all are fed.
This year our family gathered for a reunion in Destin, FL, for Thanksgiving week. We had our own gratitude feast on Wednesday and volunteered for the Habitat fundraiser for four hours on Thanksgiving afternoon. Twelve of us from OH, CA, VA, TX and FL served as waiters, runners, busboys, kitchen staff and all around workers of the endless jobs that it takes to feed and nourish folks. We added our voices to chatter that raised the decibel levels to match the smells of salt air and traditional feast. We went to be gracious and to express our gratitude for the bounty in our lives.
It was hard work, rewarded by numerous expressions of gratitude, graciousness and generosity. But, there was unexpected ingratitude.
There, in the midst of abundance, free food, sweet and savory smells, laughter and cheers—even there, some guests were surly, rude and ungracious. One volunteer waitress returned to our staging area after serving a family gesturing that she was about to pull her hair out. She was bewildered and angry.
One of the children at the table, an elementary age boy, had mumbled, “Yuck, I don’t like that!” as she placed his plate before him.
The waitress smiled and said, “Oh, you are welcome!”
The boy stuck out his tongue at her. The parents said nothing to the boy nor expressed any thanks for the delicious food. Other volunteers shared some similar stories. These experiences were infrequent, but they set us off balance in the midst of the prevailing generosity and gratitude.
As I’m prone to do, I kept pondering the rude boy and his ungrateful family. But, I moved beyond my immediate irritation to empathy, I got a salty tear in my eye thinking about this family, who in the midst of such bounty, exhibited rudeness, entitlement and ingratitude. Is there no gratitude in their souls, no moral compass, no respectful manners?
What could be the ache in their souls? Not mine to know.
Everyday I feel deeply grateful for life, love, family, friends, safety, a purpose larger than myself, and more. But my gratitude is never pure nor perfect.
Like love and hope, it is always blended with my awareness of aching bodies and souls around our world. I never want to live without the salty tear of compassion blended with gratitude and hope.
But, enough said. Let me end with one story which captures the prevailing beauty and gratitude of our Thanksgiving Day experience.
I was close enough to watch and hear the following exchange between a gentleman and my 12 year old grandson, Zachary. The gentleman, sitting at table with his wife, called Zachary to say, “I’ve been noticing how hard you are working. You haven’t stopped once.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Zach as he grinned, bowed his head, turned in his toes, and raised his heels.
“I have one more job for you,” said the gentleman. “Please put this check in the donation box. I wish I could give it to you for working so hard.”
Zach looked the smiling gentleman in the eye and said, “Yes, Sir, it is hard work but it’s for a good cause—for people who need it.”
Zach’s old PopPop felt such grateful pride—perhaps he could see the tears on my face.
Truly salty gratitude.
AND THE SALTY TRUTH: WHY THEY CARE …
If you’ve enjoyed my story—think about your own. As we all approach the year-end holidays, thankfulness and generosity are emphasized in our culture. So, what’s the salty truth about your community? Why do you care about the men, women and children who live in your corner of the world?
To help you answer those questions, you might enjoy these three, one-minute videos in which the founder of Harbor Docks talks in—well, in truly salty terms about his passion for helping families along the Gulf Coast.
Go on! It’s only 1 minute per video. As you watch, think about what you’d say about the needs of people in your hometown.
AND IN YOUR PART OF THE WORLD?
What do families need in your community?
What’s the salty truth about your community’s challenges as 2015 ends and 2016 emerges?
Did you enjoy this kind of thought-provoking story? Then, be sure to check out books by Benjamin Pratt.