a PG&J Thanksgiving and a lesson in compassion

A PB&J Thanksgiving For Those In Need

And a granddaughter’s lesson in compassion

Last Thanksgiving, Susan Neri decided she wanted to do something to help the homeless. “All you see are homeless people,” she says. “I never used to carry change or dollars with me, but now I do because I’m just giving away whatever amount. You can’t not give some people money.”

For the Thanksgiving holiday, she was visiting her daughter and granddaughter in Los Angeles, and so Neri seized the occasion to do something more. “I had this idea that we would go and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless for Thanksgiving,” she says. So on the day after Thanksgiving, she hopped in the car with her granddaughter, Sigrid, and set out. “I got a bunch of paper bags and really big jars of peanut butter and really big jars of strawberry jam. And we went to a store in LA where you can get big packs of things for less money, and we got some really big packs of 7 Up and Coca-Cola and water, and we got some big variety packs of chips and stuff.”

“I was thinking I’d put some fruit in there, and we started to get apples, but then I realized some of these people might not have any teeth, so we put in applesauce, and some other kinds of fruit,” Neri recalls. “We got a bag of little Snickers bars too. Pretty much junk, but food that everybody loves. So we went back to the house and spread it all out on the dining room table and started making sandwiches.”

“They were all so grateful. It was a really good experience.”

Neri made about 60 sandwiches, she says, while her granddaughter drew hearts on the paper bags they were to go in. Then they were ready to set out—if they could convince Sigrid’s mother that the venture was a good idea. “She didn’t want me to take Sigrid,” Neri told Good Turns recently. “She’s very protective of her, and she didn’t want me to take her down to Skid Row.” But Neri’s daughter eventually relented, and the pair set out, sitting on opposite sides of Neri’s car so that they’d be able to hand their Thanksgiving care packages out the windows on both sides.

“We got down to this park in Silver Lake, we went to a couple of parks in that part of town. We weren’t at Skid Row. But there were a lot of tents, and lot of people we came upon,” Neri says. “So we stopped there, and Sigrid got nervous, because people were looking pretty raggedy. She was nine at the time. So we had to talk about that a little bit.”

“We stopped the car and motioned people over, and they came over and we gave almost everything away,” Neri says. “They were very, very grateful. And Sigrid was not afraid. She realized they were human beings that were thankful and kind. It was a wonderful experience.”

But it was definitely an experience in the reality of homelessness around LA. “It was really sad,” Neri said. “There were lots and lots of tents, and different family members would come over and then they’d come back and say, ‘Would you mind if we had one more 7 Up or one more sandwich?’ They were all so grateful. It was a really good experience.”

Neri says she has never really done this kind of thing before, though she does bring the occasional care package to a homeless man near her house. “He’s just this poor man with one leg that lives behind the Target. I take little care packages to him, but not with Siggi,” she says. The outing made an impact on Neri’s granddaughter, she says. “I think it opened her eyes a little bit to what those people are all about that you pass on the street. I think it’s a wonderful thing to do with kids, because they get to know who these people are.”

And a wonderful thing to do with friends or relations of any age. No need to wait for Thanksgiving to come around again to give thanks in such a wonderful way.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bark

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