big blue box of love (a thanksgiving post, before christmas takes over my blog)

i know that most people are done with thanksgiving, and already shopping, or (maybe even done shopping) for christmas. the lights are hung, the trees are up, the halls are all decked up, santa is at every mall, the cards are being sent. christmas season is fun and legnthy, whereas the thanksgiving season is a little short-lived and sweet. other than a big meal, thanksgiving just doesn't have as many festivities surrounding it, and there is hardly any mystery to it - we make a turkey, we eat it with family and friends, we talk about how thankful we are and then the christmas season starts. and christmas season just always seems like it is full of surprise and hope.

and this is not bad. i think this is how it should be - lets all get together, eat a big meal, and remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for, before the christmas season makes us feel poor! i was thinking about thanksgivings and christmases from when i was a child, and growing up, my family was what some would consider "poor". i never thought of us as "poor" though. i knew we weren't rich, but never thought we were "poor". i suppose most kids who grow up in "poor families" don't always think they are "poor" though, you just know your family isn't "rich". poor families don't have television or a computer, and they can't afford shoes and dress in rags, they are dirty, skinny, and sick... or at least this is what i thought when i was a kid. i did not realize i was living in a poor family until i was a teenager and we received a "box of love" from our church. it was a big blue box, that kind of looked like a moving box, and was full of canned goods, some juice, gravy, stuffing, and everything that you would think of that would be needed for thanksgiving dinner. the "box of love" came along with a frozen turkey, and this was meant to be thanksgiving dinner for a family of six. the boxes were donated by church families and given away to "poor" families in the surrounding neighborhood as well as to "poor families" within the church. my family was a family of ten (eight of us kids, and two parents), the box easily could feed all of us as almost half of the kids were under the age of five.

that blue box was the first realization that my family was a "poor family", that we were seen by others as not being able to afford to feed ourselves. the boxes were given away "secretly" to church families, so as to not embarrass them, or allow others to know they were picking up one of the boxes that another more "privileged" family had put together and donated. the church did not want any "poor family" to feel any sort of way about accepting one of these boxes. well, my family did not feel any sort of way about accepting one of these boxes. no, i can remember my family being first in line right after the service to pick up our box and haul it out to the family van. as a teenager there is nothing quite as embarrassing. everyone saw your huge family grabbing a big blue box of poorness and dragging it to the van, and knew for certain that you were poor. as if your gaggle of siblings in hand-me-down clothing, old shoes, and rusted van hadn't clued them in already. now, everyone was sure you were poor, and you knew that they were looking at you, and pitying you, and probably praying for you. as a teenager growing up in the church, you don't want people praying for you.

funny thing is - my family donated a blue box of love. every year. we would come drop it off during the week, only to retrieve one the following sunday. i can remember shopping for the items on the list for the box with my mother. it was fun to shop for the items on the list and pack them away in the empty box you had picked up a church the sunday before. it made you feel like you were helping out. which only left me feeling completely confused as my family became a recipient of the box less than a week later. 

in many ways there were little hints prior to the big blue box that i should have picked up on. i had a job from the time i was fourteen and as soon as i started making some money i bought my own shoes and clothes. we always had hand-me-down appliances from relatives who had remodeled or someone who was getting rid of theirs. there was at least one year that our oven decided to break on thanksgiving day. we accepted hand-me-down clothing, and shoes, and toys. we always had old clunker cars or vans (growing up as one of eight means many vans). but, i never though i or my family was poor. i thought the old grand-pa sweaters i bought from the thrift were amazing, and that my family was smart and frugal for using others old appliances. i was thankful.

now i am an adult, and i am not what my teenaged self would have considered "poor". in fact i am probably what my teenaged self would have thought was "rich". i have more student loan debt than i would ever like to admit, i have a mortgage, and can't really justify spending the money on that dumb madewell dress that i have had my eye on forever, but i also have a nice home, good car, food on the table, and a very good job.  most importantly i have a healthy family and friends to love, which is not so different from when i was growing up "poor". i am thankful.

"rich" or "poor" - i hope you are thankful too.


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