Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday's Harvest Feast

I'm nervous, standing and watching anxiously. I had just arrived at Fed Ex field for the Washington Redskins Harvest feast. It's a Thanksgiving based event that attempts to help so many hungry families have a great meal for the holidays. I'm happy that my wife and brother have made the trip with me, I look over my shoulder and even though they only see me smiling and signing autographs while I work, they make me much more comfortable. It's not that I'm scared to be a part of any charitable event, it just feels awkward to be a part of when its people in need. It's hard to take in my surroundings, there are just so many unfamiliar people. Some are better dressed , some in rags, many weathered and worn out, some look desperate. There is noise all around me, but the stadium feels quiet.

After meeting with all the volunteers I learned my job for the day wouldn't be working in the lines at the stadium, but driving around to different shelters in the Fed Ex delivery truck. A half hour at the stadium blew by like 5 minutes I'm hurried toward my ride for the day. I'm standing on the stair of the truck and a woman is coming towards me. She is in her early 30's and she has a black trench coat and she has short dark hair and desperate eyes. She has been watching me. She's quiet when she tells me she has no place to live and she has been cut out of the line for the food. She arrived too late and just wants a turkey. I'm being pressured to leave by three different people at this point. I had just watched over 300 turkeys thrown in the back of the truck and I know they are going with me to the shelters, but I figured I could get just one. I get to the back of the truck and I cant get the door open. I feel stupid and after a minute a worker again hurries me toward the door. I don't really know what to do. The woman says she can probably sell an autograph. I don't have a pen, she doesn't have any paper. I felt lost in our interaction. I feel sorry. I wish I could be more help.

An hour later I'm riding around Greenbelt Maryland in a burgundy 47 jersey handing out turkeys like Fed Ex deliveries and I'm thinking about how I've gotten to where I am. I'm thankful for my life and my family. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had at success and the people who have been behind me all the way. I'm thankful that my biggest worry for the Thanksgiving meal is figuring out how to bake an apple pie from scratch. I'm thankful that I'm the guy passing out the turkeys. I smile knowing I'm sharing the day with my wife.

We make another stop to unload more bags. We walk into the shelter and the first guy tells me I'm not big enough to be Chris Cooley. He really doesn't believe me. I look down at my jersey and he sees me. He tells me lots of people got Redskin jerseys. One of the volunteers confirms to the older man who I really am and that I came to help them with their Thanksgiving dinner. He tells me he could tackle me, but it's nice that I'm helping with the bags of food. I laugh. After four or five more trips of carrying bags inside a small crowd of the residents begins to form. I have a team ready to tackle me. We start to share some football stories and after ten minutes everyone is laughing. It's great to see people smile. I feel more comfortable in the intimate situation. We all shake hands before we leave. Crazy to think how close our lives had been at one point in time. Again I'm thankful.

We make a couple more stops on the trip around and all with great result. Everyone is very thankful for the food. I feel much better now that the trip is coming to a close. I'm excited we took part in the event. The Redskins did another outstanding job of putting a charitable function. As we get back to our truck I see over 20 players still there hanging out talking to people. It's funny we all show up a little apprehensive and by the end of the day everyone is secure and content. Of course it's impossible to help everyone, but it's feels great to be able to put yourself out there and try to help who you can.

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