Life Changes

by Debbie McNaughton

My thoughts were preoccupied one holiday season, as my daughter recovered from spinal surgery. Her twenty-four hour care had exhausted me. Unforeseen complications required additional nursing and our home had few quiet moments.

The holidays were here and I'd had little time to think about them. In fact, I only wanted to forget and have them pass by quickly. Difficult times make you wonder how soon they will evaporate and turn into hope again.

I sat in the rocking chair by the picture window one afternoon, content with the view of snow upon the back lawn that led towards the river. An unexpected knock at the front door took me by surprise. I greeted six friends, with broad smiles on their faces.

"We hope you like turkey!" they chimed in together.

"It's so nice to see you!" I said, wondering what they were up to.

Across my kitchen counters they arranged a holiday feast. First, a covered roasting pan was set upon my stove; it held a cooked turkey. A fabric-covered jar had been filled with brown gravy and placed next to some bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash. A basket covered in white linen held the fresh aroma of homemade bread and cinnamon rolls.

Another countertop was filled with pies of pecan, apple, and pumpkin. I stood stunned by this kindness as each person embraced me with a warm hug.

"We've been thinking of you, and hope you like our little surprise."

I remember when I was young, my father stood at the head of our holiday dinner table. He would spread his arms open, palms up and say, "Eat well and give this house a good name."

As I stood before this bounty the following day, thankful for caring friends, I repeated my father's words. It was the only way I knew how to honor them and vowed one day to repay this kindness. Fate has a way of listening in when you least expect you'll be given an answer.

Several years later, our church had the opportunity to start a community food bank. I volunteered to be the coordinator.

I knew firsthand that life changes. At one time or another, we all come upon hard times. When neighbors need help, each of us must be alert to their silent need and set aside our everyday life to embrace the generosity that exists in our souls and become involved in their well-being.

Our food bank was located in a small house beside our church. It had a large flagstone fireplace in the living room, with comfortable stuffed chairs. The cozy atmosphere welcomed our guests to relax a moment and enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation as we prepared bags of food for them.

Every Saturday for ten years, my daughter and I greeted our neighbors, listened to their life stories and shared our family's heartaches, hopes and dreams. We never judged or turned anyone away.

The holiday season had once again returned to be my favorite time of year. I recall during one holiday rush, I found myself surrounded by fifty frozen turkeys. I broke out in laughter, as I keep repeating, "fifty frozen turkeys finding families."

My daughter sat in her wheelchair wondering if I had gone insane. Then I noticed she began pointing to one large bird on her wheelchair tray. My new mantra: "fifty-ONE frozen turkeys finding families!"

Together as a team, my daughter and I filled the empty boxes spread across the room with cans of food and packaged goods, enough for each family to cook and enjoy a full holiday feast.

As a special treat, we had baked each evening at home – one hundred applesauce cakes, cookies and pumpkin breads – as our personal holiday gift to add to the boxes on the day of delivery.

After volunteers had loaded their vehicles, they drove miles through our mountainous community to each home, delivering their delicious cargo. The sudden knock upon the door, just as it once had been upon mine, came as welcome relief for many.

Years later, I now reflect upon the importance of the opportunity given to me at that time. I believe each of us pass through doors that change and enhance our lives.

Never be hesitant to turn towards that door because unexpected gratitude awaits. In the hardest of times, goodness finds a way to lighten the load of everyday life.

Debbie McNaughton is a writer of short stories drawn from everyday life. She is a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women and a member of Cape Cod Writer's Center.

Debbie is a regular contributing writer to Cape Women Online and has also been published in Seeing the Everyday magazine.

Debbie and her daughter have lived on Cape Cod for 10 years. They collect mermaids, listen to loud rock music and dream of owning a red corvette.

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