All That We Can Give


Prodigal:  The morning has started out slow.

Me:  I agree.  It just seems that there are distractions.

Prodigal:  Let’s share a story then.


This is from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Stories of Faith by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen


On Thanksgiving Day I awoke on the mattress that I shared with my two young children and tumbles into despair.  At the time I was twenty-five and recently divorced.  It was three days to payday and there was no money left.  I had a job, but was only making $300 a month, and that month’s entire paycheck had already gone to pay for the apartment and food for my little boys.  I had swallowed my pride and applied for food stamps, but had been turned down-because I made two dollars over the monthly limit.

On that Thanksgiving Day, there was nothing left to eat in the house but three hot dogs.

Perhaps hardest of all was my feeling of isolation.  There was no friends to help.  No one had invited us to share the holiday dinner.  The loneliness was worse than the ever-present hunger.

But it was Thanksgiving, and for the sake of the children, I knew I had to make the best of the day.

“Come on, boys,” I said.  “Today’s a special day.  We’re having a picnic!”

Together the three of us went to the park and cooked the hot dogs on the grill.  We played happily together until late in the afternoon.

But on the way home, the boys asked for more food.  The single hot dog they had eaten did not come close to being a decent meal.  I knew they were hungrier even than they let on.

I tried to joke about it with them, but inside I was very, very scared.  I didn’t know where our next meal was going to come from.  I’d reached the end of my rope.

As we entered our apartment building, an old woman I’d never seen before stepped directly into our path.  She was a tiny thing wearing a simple print dress, her wispy white hair pulled up in a bun.  With her smile of greeting, she looked like a kindhearted tutu, and island grandmother.

“Oh, Honey,” the old lady said as the boys and I started to walk past.  “I’ve been waiting for you.  You left this morning before I could catch you.  I’ve got Thanksgiving dinner ready for your family.”

Caught by surprise, I thought that I shouldn’t accept such an offer from a complete stranger.  With a word of thanks, I started to brush past.

“Oh,” said the old lady, “but it’s Thanksgiving.  You have to come.”

I looked at my boys.  Their hunger tore at me.  Even though it was against my better judgement, I accepted.

The old lady’s apartment was on the ground floor.  When she opened the door, we saw a beautiful table set for four.  It was the perfect Thanksgiving meal with all the traditional trimmings.  The candles were lit and it was obvious that guests were expected.  We were expected.

Gradually I began to relax.  We all sat down together to enjoy the meal.  Somehow, I found myself talking freely of my loneliness, the difficulty of raising two small boys by myself and of the challenges I was facing.  The grandmotherly woman listened with compassion and understanding.  I remember I felt that for that time, at least, we were home.

As the evening ended, I wondered how I could possibly express my thanks for such incredible kindness.  Eyes brimming, I simply said, “Thank you.  I know that now I can go on.”  A complete stranger had reached out and given our little family such an important gift.   The boys were grinning from ear to ear as the elderly lady loaded them down with Tupperware bowls full of leftovers.

We left her apartment that evening bubbling with joy, the boys joking and laughing.  For the first time in a long time, I felt certain that I could face what had to be faced.  I was a different person from the scared girl  I had been that morning.  I’d somehow been transformed.  We all had.

Early the next day, in a happy mood, I went back to visit my new friend and to return the borrowed bowls.  I knocked, but there was no answer.  I looked through an open window.

What I saw shocked me.  The apartment was completely empty.  There wasn’t a stick of furniture.  There wasn’t anything.

I hurried down to the manager’s apartment.  “What happened to the elderly lady in apartment three?” I asked.

He gave me a look and said, “What lady?  That apartment’s been vacant for the past ten or twelve weeks.  Nobody lives there.”


And he said unto me, It is done.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give unto him that is a thrist of the fountain of water of life freely.

Revelation 21:6


Jennifer Van Allen

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