“I needed a place to go for Thanksgiving dinner.”
She’s well spoken, her clothes neat, and truly grateful.
Taking a seat at the long row of tables, she joins hundreds of others walking through the doors of the Salvation Army in Galveston to rest, retreat, or simply enjoy the company of others.
Everyone has a story. And this woman, who passed through the doors on Thanksgiving afternoon, is not unlike anyone else. While we all have a story behind us, we tend to forget today is an important indicator of where our road in life will lead tomorrow.
“I was a runaway when I was 11-years old,” she says. “The Salvation Army was always a place I could come when I needed something or feel safe.”
Her smile is broad and warm. She’s exceedingly polite.
Volunteers bring large plates of turkey, ham, and all the side dishes you’d expect to see. But they also serve each person at the table with a large serving of love and respect.
The woman tells me more of her story and what brings her to the Salvation Army on the sunny afternoon.
“I can’t be with my family today,” she says. “There is alcohol and other things I don’t want to be around.”
Her voice hints of a story she’d rather not share, but her words reveal a chapter of recovery and her commitment to practicing better choices in life.
A plate of food arrives and is placed before her. Two young children ages 8 and 10 pour iced tea into red plastic cups destined for her and others at the table.
She looks down at the plate before her. I know she’s here for a different reason than many others – but hers is just as important in her life. The Salvation Army is an anchor, a placeholder in her life as the one place she can go when the world around her is unpredictable or threatening. The Salvation Army is her safe place, the one house she can walk into at any time and be welcomed.
I make sure she’s comfortable and excuse myself to check on others sitting around the table.
Her story refuses to let me go. As I continue to visit with others, making sure their red solo cups are filled or inviting them for seconds, her story hangs with me. Her journey – or story – is rewriting my preconception of whom I would be serving on this Thanksgiving Day.
A short while later I return to her place at the table, offering her seconds or to see if I can refill her drink.
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” she says, gently pushing her tray forward.
Placing her paper napkin in front of her, I detect a bit of hesitation on her part of getting up from the table. It is as if she knows once she goes back out the doors, she is again on her own to face the demons and challenges of the world.
Everyone has a story.