Okay, I’m the first to admit that this is no big deal, but how often do most of us get to write these words? “We were on TV.”
As you’ll see in this clip from WTNH-TV, we volunteers from First Church of Christ Congregational (Redding, CT) were caught on camera during the annual Thanksgiving Basket Brigade at New Haven’s Casa Community Center. Under the inspiring leadership of our friends at Christian Community Action (CCA), groups from various churches and other organizations help assemble food for those in need into single-family grocery bags that are combined with donated turkeys for one-stop holiday meals. Phase one involves sorting the vast mounds of donations into categories (e.g., vegetables, stuffing, pasta/rice, beverages); in phase two, “shoppers” take bags and make the rounds from station to station so that each item is represented, while the rest of us either supply them or resupply the suppliers…when we’re not unloading further donations from trucks.
As if it’s not enough that she co-chairs the fair that brings in much of the funding for our church’s outreach programs, Madame BOF also helps coordinate this effort with our associate minister, Jack Davidson. (And sings with me in the choir every week, and cooks for the Dorothy Day soup kitchen in Danbury, and volunteers in countless other ways, and although she’d be mortified that I’m tooting her horn, it’s her birthday today, so I have no scruples about telling you how great she is.)
You can briefly see me crossing behind the stations starting around 0:41. The guy being interviewed at 0:48, Jeff Braun, was Jack’s predecessor, who now has his own church in Cheshire, so there is a, shall we say, spirited but friendly rivalry between the two churches over how much each group can accomplish. This year, I’m sorry to say that the lesson was “less is more,” because the Casa Community Center has so much less room than our previous venue that most of our time, especially during phase one, seemed to be spent trying not to step on other volunteers.
Be that as it may, while Jeff is speaking, you can see our awesome senior minister, Dean Ahlberg, chatting in the background to the left, and Madame BOF on the fringe—as I’m sure she would wish it—at right. She is also visible, again at the right, around 1:06. You can see the two of us talking in the background on the left at 1:18, and amusingly, I can tell from my body language that at that exact moment, I’m kvetching about how the surfeit of warm bodies actually reduced our productivity. Fortunately, I’m looking a lot more benign when you get the best opportunity for M/M BOF viewing at 1:33.
As I wrote the preceding, two cats were dozing contentedly within inches of each other on the bed nearby, but the impact of that statement is lost without its proper context. Ever since our shelter cat Mina died tragically young of unknown causes on the 4th of July, we’ve been worried that her sister, Lucy, would be lonely while we were at work all day; after all, avoiding that was the whole reason we got two cats in the first place. So when Madame BOF heard from a co-worker about a feral cat that had wandered onto somebody’s deck and jumped up into their lap, we thought it might be time Lucy had a friend.
Sadly, the new arrival (whom we named Sally, thus repurposing Lucy’s name from that of a Bram Stoker to a Charles M. Schulz character) hasn’t gotten the memo yet. Of course we heard all sorts of cautionary tales about how hard it can be to introduce a new cat into a household, and for the past few weeks we’ve been living the nightmare, with stalking and hissing that occasionally erupts into growling, yowling, and Tasmanian Devil-style tornadoes of fur. They’re still not friendly, but today’s little encounter, which ended with no worse than a perfunctory, half-hearted hiss from Sally while Lucy amicably quit the field, at least gives us cause for continued hope and gratitude.
Because gratitude is what it’s all about: gratitude that we’re well enough off to have time and money to share with others who have less, and great people with whom to do so; gratitude that we will have other gifts to share when we sing at the interfaith Thanksgiving Eve service our church is hosting this year, where the sermon will be given by none other than CCA’s own Rev. Bonita Grubbs; gratitude for our amazing daughter, Alexandra, who recently made us proud yet again with her appearance in a production of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday by a new theatrical group in D.C., and will be joining us on Thursday; gratitude for my friends, who—like us—luckily made it inconvenienced but unscathed through Hurricane Sandy (which left all local family branches in the dark for varying lengths of time) and the follow-up snowstorm; gratitude for the continued presence of my 82-year-old mother, to whom we were able to offer, if not light, heat, or running water, then at least company and safety in numbers for much of her 11 days without power; gratitude for the rest of the extended family that surrounds us with love, even as poor Madame BOF runs the annual gauntlet of preparations for the holiday; gratitude that we can offer a “forever home” to these two beautiful cats, even if they haven’t learned to get along quite yet; gratitude that we’re both employed, even though Loreen’s hours are so demanding; gratitude that in addition to my day job, I have opportunities to pursue my real calling with things like my Cinema Retro article on James Bond (of which I still have yet to receive any copies) and my weekly contributions to Marvel University.
Well, you get the picture.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
And Happy Birthday to the love of my life.