The picnic shelter on the edge of Chavis Park had two tables lined with 80 Harris Teeter grocery bags when I biked by Sunday afternoon. Recca Eason and DeAndre McKnight, along with volunteers from a nearby homeless shelter, everyone wearing masks, offered freshly cooked turkey, warm on a nearby grill, and staples to passersby who were homeless or hungry.
Recca herself knew what it was like to be homeless. As someone who had struggled with significant health issues and lost two children, she knew what it was like to live out of her car, not know where the next meal was coming from, and bathe in a McDonald’s bathroom.
“I know how alone you can feel,” she told me when I stopped to ask questions. “I had no one to hold my hand and tell me it would ever be okay.”
To some extent, I've heard this sentiment to varying degrees from many people, especially older ones, during this extended period of necessary social isolation.
Fortunately, in the case of Recca, with the help of B & D Integrated Health Services and the faith of therapist Felipe Blue, she had not only turned her life around and gotten a fulltime job as a Personal Service Assistant this year, she and DeAndre had founded “U R Not Alone,” a community support program to assist people in finding housing, food pantries, mental health services and someone to listen.
Using donations from Harris Teeter and her paycheck to supplement the supplies, she and DeAndre served nearly 100 people a hot lunch on a warm Sunday afternoon and sent them away with one of the 80 bags of groceries they packed.
Let's face it. The news today is filled with stories of empty food banks, lost jobs and homes, increasing cases of COVID, and stories that will break your heart. However, there are stories that can melt it, too.
We know from personal experience, but also research, that focusing on what you have rather than what you don’t, may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. And like a muscle, this sentiment grows stronger with use.
In Recca and DeAndre's case, I could see that Felipe Blue's counseling and faith in them had lit a pilot light that led to a hot meal for many. The gratitude expressed to Recca and DeAndre by all those who received food on Sunday provided its own medicine.
With that in mind and knowing the enormous needs, not just material, that people in our communities have this year, might this story inspire a small, quiet effort of your own? Nothing can replace the joy of being with extended family at Thanksgiving; however, maybe doing something that will put your heart in the right spirit may have its own value.
Albert Einstein once famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.”