Monthly Archives: November 2018

Thanksgiving Memories

 

Here we were – a group of unsophisticated teenagers – planning to go to Florida during our Thanksgiving break.   It didn’t matter to us that it was 17 hours & 36 minutes or 1,120.9 miles from NJ via I-95 S.  We had a pretty good car, there were four of us and what could go wrong?

Nothing went wrong on the way down with all our singing and happiness.   Our funds allowed us only a couple of overnight hotel days, enough for gas/tolls and we were confident.  We had a great time until it was time to go home to be there for Thanksgiving.   We allowed a day to travel back with gas and food – but forgot about the tolls.  Money was diminishing quickly.

To make up for disappearing monies, we cut down on food and decided to drive at night instead of stopping to sleep.  I remember my turn taking the wheel and fighting to keep my eyes open.   We stopped at an open diner at about 1:00 am on Thanksgiving Eve.    Half asleep, we were approached by a handsome man in cowboy garb who introduced himself – he was about 7 years older than we were.   He said he spotted us ‘driving all over the road” while he was taking some ponies back to his pony farm.   He pointed to his truck which was indeed his name and his farm’s name.   He said he would keep an eye on us as we were approaching the state of North Carolina.   Thinking, he said he would be right back; when he returned, he said he called his wife, Barbara, and they would like us to have Thanksgiving with them in NC.  Being from a northern city, we were leery and alert that we did not know this man or his wife.   He insisted we follow him and with high suspicion, we followed him – it was 4 against 1 plus we knew we wouldn’t get home in time, had no money left for tolls and we were plumb tired.

When he pulled up in front of his beautiful farmhouse, and, yes, there was a sign outside proclaiming his name and “Pony Farm”, his wife, Barbara came out and welcomed us.   Still NJ leery, we were shown to our rooms (each had its own bathroom) and told what time dinner was ready. Dinner was at his father’s house not far from his own.    The dinner was perfection of Southern charm & cuisine.   Our host, Herb, still in his cowboy hat, played the guitar and entertained the group while we were finishing off our dinner of Barbara’s home-made peach ice cream.   This was Southern Hospitality.

The next day, they hugged us good-bye with good wishes, and a $20 bill was found in the visor as we drove away.

We kept in touch all these decades later and each Thanksgiving I send them flowers.   We were invited back when we married and had families.  They have  a cottage near their pool in their  backyard and many years later,  we and our kids spent some quality time with them and sometimes at our homes.   Although we were Catholic and they were Baptist, we attended their church and they ours — on the Sabbath.

Herb has passed away but Barbara and I keep in touch and sometimes visit.   I wrote on her Thanksgiving card this year and reminded her that our story of their caring and sharing Thanksgiving with us is repeated at every Thanksgiving meal.   Whoever hears it knows that not only did it affect the original four of us but is repeated to others .    Hopefully, sharing and caring will go forward as it does with our friends and family.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?”   Matthew  25:31-40

Marie Coppola   November 2018

 

 

 

After Hurricane Florence

October was a heavy duty month in more ways than one.   Many of us had to leave our homes not knowing what condition it would be in when we returned.   Would we have to throw away all the food we bought in case the electricity went off?   Would there be water in the house or neighborhood?   Would there be looting going on?

We went to Georgia for 5 days and upon our return, we were blessed to have no flooding, no electricity loss and nothing missing.   Some debris here and there but not as bad as some friends and acquaintances who had heavy water and home damage.    Some folks had loss of a loved one that week and compounded with the loss of one’s home – it weighed heavily upon them.   My motto those weeks was “You never know what a friend, neighbor or stranger has to endure in their heart”.   I thought of that when someone tried to cut in front of me driving  or got impatient in the store line or was just downright grouchy.   Everyone got more patience and caring from me in return.    I try to bring it along now that things are somewhat more normal.   But it’s not for all of us.

Our church’s school had flooding which disrupted the regular schedules and locations.   Our many church ministries also were disrupted – some of which were difficult to relocate due to changing of the regular schedules and locations.

They say there is always ‘some good that comes out of something bad’ – sometimes it’s hard to look for it and sometimes it is just apparent.

Concentrating on what should we take and what should we leave including ourselves  – I didn’t listen to or miss all the election and political landscapes – it seems civility and good old manners were absent from our everyday routines; until Florence came into town.

Although stress is high from leaving your home, it was negated by the camaraderie and caring of others on the road, in restaurants and hotels.   We saw familiar faces , shared our experiences and learned from others of their experiences.

Back at home five days later we saw firsthand the good over the bad.   Many of our weekly-held ministries had to rearranged due to space and manpower.    The church communities in our area came to our rescue by offering their space and accommodations.    God is alive in North and South Carolina.   No church functions were cancelled, ministries continued and new friendships were formed.   Some of the ministries – held weekly – continued and didn’t miss even one – much to the relief of the participants involved.   The space-giving church staffs  treated us as members offering to help and/or just by sharing their spaces and hospitality.  The churches in our area do help one another – it doesn’t matter what denomination we or  they are – they are practicing the Commandment “Love Thy Neighbor”.    It was a welcome feeling through a bad situation and the feeling magnifies and goes forward.

One can only hope that good neighbors & situations continues not only here but in all of America.  It is said that our country comes together closer in times of distress.   Let’s pray that our country leaves behind the nastiness, fighting and disarray of our political system.  We need to love our neighbors as we do ourselves – we can do it even with distress, problems  or hurricanes .  Caring and loving  is all around us if we only seek it out.    And it multiplies.   And can change our culture.