Today I served dinners to some of the 4000 homeless here in Los Angeles. I’m always mindful that many of our homeless are veterans, some from wars past and some of wars present. There are celebrities and politicians aplenty in evidence; many of their nametags superfluous but providing a leveling affect. Fame and power bring both privilege and responsibility. Some have brought their children along; they hand out plates, cut pecan pies, pour cups of orange soda and cola. These are not children who will miss many meals in the coming years. Their lives include expensive SUVs, private schools, high tech toys…but today their parents have decided to show them that service to others is important, that not everyone’s life proceeds without struggle, that giving thanks involves giving. I’d brought with me to this event a young man I was then mentoring, wanting him to experience first-hand, the benefits of service to others.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I’ll celebrate it with family and friends. I’m obligated to be with them and look forward to being with them, but today I experienced the essence of this holiday. We all have reason to give thanks, if only for having awakened this morning. Two weeks ago, on Veterans Day in New York, I marched up 5th Avenue, alongside Mayor Bloomberg; today at the LA Mission, Mayor Villaraigosa is ladling mashed potatoes onto my paper plates. Kirk Douglas is spooning out black-eyed peas. Henry Winkler offers slices of turkey. Apollonia (Good God, I want to have her baby!) Apollonia distributes pumpkin and rhubarb pie. And for at least one day, in a world of greed and waste and deprivation, these privileged children experience that warm runny feeling we all get out of volunteering.

My most memorable moment: I passed a rather elderly, white-bearded Black man as I served his table. He noticed me as I passed and his eyes lit up with recognition and excitement. “Hey, man! I know you! I love your work! I been watching you since I was a kid!”

Thanksgiving Day 2005

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