His fingers were stained with dirt, and his beard was as wiry and gray as an old scour pad. The dingy woolen hat on his head was pulled low to cover his eyes.
Still, when a Salvation Army volunteer, draped in a red volunteer apron, approached him, he flashed a small smile.
“How do you like the meal?” she asked.
The old man nodded. “It’s good,” he mumbled. “I never get hot breakfast. First hot breakfast in months.”
Just walking by the tables on Thanksgiving morning at The Salvation Army’s annual City-Wide Thanksgiving Brunch, I heard so many stories similar to that. I watched the volunteer start a bit, surprised by the starkness of the man’s comment. She glanced around, snuck back to the serving line and smuggled the old man another heaping plate of food.
Everyone let her.
Other families trudged into The Bricktown Coca-Cola Event Center Thanksgiving morning with children in tow. Many sat quietly, their children doing the excited talking.
For the past few decades, The Salvation Army has served a traditional Thanksgiving meal on this holiday. This year, we tried something a little different.
Noticing that families began lining up at 7 a.m. for an 11 a.m. meal – and because so many other organizations now serve turkey dinners, bless them – we saw that a breakfast brunch might be more needed.
So, instead of slinging our famous turkey and stuffing, we offered a hearty breakfast to all – eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy! We had donuts that Krispy Kreme donated. Coffee and juice flowed like manna!
Our 200-plus volunteers packed the house, willing to seat families, guests and the homeless. They served the tables as if in a sit-down family restaurant while other volunteers filled the plates and handed out apple juice and coffee.
By 10 a.m., hundreds of people had been fed. The Salvation Army band played. The media all came out to share in the celebration.
But most importantly – everyone in need received a hot meal, a warm smile.
It was truly a day to be thankful for.