Having reached the three score and ten promised by scripture, I feel compelled to share some of the amazing blessings I have received as part of the St. Vincent de Paul Juneau family for the past 20 years.
Today, let me share just one of the many.
Most folks are aware that the St. Vincent de Paul Society sponsors a large holiday program from Thanksgiving through Christmas. In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in direct aid we distribute throughout the year, our volunteers prepare hundreds of full Thanksgiving dinner baskets—turkey, vegetables, potatoes, pumpkin pie—the complete makings for a family feast. These are distributed to all who sign up for them in the month of November.
Immediately following Thanksgiving, we begin the Adopt-A-Family program. In this case, we connect donors—families, co-workers, individuals—with families that have very few resources to ensure their children a happy Christmas. All families that sign up receive gifts for their children. If the number of donors is insufficient (as is often the case) the St. Vincent de Paul Society steps in to make sure no child is left without a gift on Christmas morning. Obviously being just a small part of these wonderful community efforts is a tremendous blessing.
One of the most vivid memories I have is a telephone call I received from a mother a few days after one Thanksgiving many years ago. “Hello. I just wanted to call and thank you for giving us an opportunity to help a family with Thanksgiving. My daughter is nine and she helped me deliver the basket to the front door. On our way home she was unusually quiet. When we arrived at our own house, she sat in the car for a moment and then said, ‘Mom, God wants us to do this every year, can we?’ I just want to thank you all, and yes, we will do this every year.” Many years and thousands of Thanksgiving baskets later, that brief call remains a cherished memory.
The walk up to that front door and the chance to share a little love for our brothers and sisters is like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings that precipitates a hurricane. In this case, a hurricane of love. That little girl is grown now. She may be working in a homeless shelter in Seattle, or making a fortune on Wall Street, or quietly raising her own lovely children here in Juneau. I believe the power of that Thanksgiving experience is forever in her heart and will continue to express itself throughout her life. For this, I am eternally grateful.
On Saturday, September 30, we will have our annual Friends of the Poor Walk/Run. This is our one specific fund raising event each year and is generously supported by individuals and businesses in our caring community. It is usually raining of course. But, it is a wonderful opportunity to come out for an hour or so and share the same Divine Love that touched that little girl many years ago.
Dan Austin, General Manager
St. Vincent de Paul Society, Juneau