If the only prayer you say in your whole life is “thank you,” it will be enough.
That wisdom is attributed to a 13th century theologian named Meister Eckhart. It still resonates today, especially in November, when families traditionally gather to give thanks for a perfectly basted golden turkey, mouth-watering stuffing (or dressing, as we called it in the Deep South), creamy mashed potatoes, and vast quantities of gravy, pecan, and pumpkin pies.
Growing up, I especially gave thanks for my day-after-thanksgiving breakfast, which was a towering turkey sandwich slathered with cranberry sauce, followed by leftover pie topped with a scoop of ice cream.
I’m not saying I don’t indulge in and give thanks for some of these same things now that I’m wiser (and a tiny bit older). But there’s a whole lot more on my thank-you list these days. Like the finely honed taste buds, and perfect senses of sight and smell that still let me enjoy every flavorful bite.
I breathe a prayer of thanks for my father, who worked way too hard all his life; for the mother who believed in me, and the teachers and mentors who inspired me.
I breathe a prayer of thanks for the good health I’ve enjoyed, and critical things like clean water and sanitary living conditions. For the college educations that were available to my children, who both now work to make life better for others.
Yet I know that every day, mothers like me are praying a different prayer.
“Thank you that today we have enough to eat.”
”Thank you for the after-school program for my children because I work in the fields until dark and it is not safe for them to be home alone.”
“Thank you that my son has a tutor to help with homework that I don’t understand.”
“Thank you for the miracle that my daughter will be the first-ever member of our family to go to college.”
Thanks to the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee, these kinds of prayers are being answered. The Guadalupe Center is working to break the cycle of poverty by creating a continuum of service from cradle to career through its early childhood education services, its Guadalupe After-school Program (G-A-P), and its college prep, scholarship, mentoring, and tutoring program called Tutor Corps.
Its two annual events, the Holiday Gift Shop and Thanksgiving in the Park, celebrate the humanity in those living under the burden of poverty as well as those who give of themselves to add a few moments of joy to their lives.
In addition to the gifted teachers and dedicated staffers of the Guadalupe Center, there are scores of others who generously donate their time and financial resources to break the terrible cycle of poverty in Immokalee.
There’s a long way to go, and more support is needed. Those moved to be a part of this wonderful mission, by participating in Thanksgiving in the Park, mentoring, or financial support can learn more at www.guadalupecenter.org.
Meanwhile, this month, the Guadalupe Center’s “thank you” prayer is for those who have made our Thanksgiving in the Park such a successful event for the past 30 years. Here we would like to highlight the congregation of St. Williams, the congregation of Moorings Presbyterian Church, and the extraordinary commitment of Jim, Kathy, and Libby Shannon who have been involved for all 30 years. All of the many volunteers who have been involved throughout these 30 years are an example of the true spirit of thanksgiving in our community, and for this we all ought to be thankful.
Karen T. Bartlett and her children first volunteered at Thanksgiving in the Park in the mid-1990s, and Bartlett now serves as public relation counsel for the Guadalupe Center.