Thursday, November 24, 2011

unknown territory

Family Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner
at St. Anthony's Dining Room in San Francisco
This is the day on which we give thanks, and oh, do we not have so much to be thankful for?  Besides my usual litany of family and friends I want to give a special thanks to my mother and father, who in the face of bigotry and economic failure in N. Ireland, took the risk to take their 2 year old daughter to seek a better future in a new country, the United States of America.  The year was 1955 and I was two. 
Most of the time I consider that story in the knowledge that I know how it turned out - which is also how I often read the sacred story of the birth of Christ...ho hum. But upon further reflection today I realize that my parents had no idea how they would be accepted, whether there would be work, or how they would provide for their child.  There were no guarantees and yet they took this giant leap into "unknown territory."  Sound familiar?  Is that not what God is always calling us towards? 
There are many stories that have been left untold about our families and we experience new connections and compassion as new ones are  revealed.  Case in point: I just learned from my mother that upon their arrival in San Francisco, my father spent many a long and lonely day looking for any type of work with no success.  What I didn't know was that his biggest joy every day was the knowledge that he would receive a hot meal from a group of Franciscans in downtown San Francisco.  I never knew that my father was on the receiving end of such kindness.  That new knowledge has enlarged my heart towards him and towards the hands of Christ who ministered to my dad and  countless others.  The founder, Father Alfred, opened the doors to St. Anthony's Dining Room (he did not want it to be labeled a soup kitchen) on Oct. 4th, 1950 (the feast of St. Francis) and the Dining Room continues to serve on average 2600 meals a day.  I'm constantly amazed at how God's sheep weave God's grace through all of our lives. 
So when it is my turn today at the dinner table to offer what I'm grateful for, I will mention the boldness and tenacity of my parents in seeking out a better life for their family and for those Franciscan friars who took the words of Christ to heart, "Feed my sheep." 
And as we edge closer to the season of Advent, I'd ask that you consider what "unknown territory" God may be leading you toward?
Happy Thanksgiving
1956 - St. Anthony's Dining Room
"I see God as one act -
just loving, like the sun,
always shining."
- Father Alfred, founder of
St. Anthony's Dining Room


Philomena Ewing said...

What a fabulous story and I am so grateful that you share it here.
Your parents were indeed courageous to do what they did.
Thanks Roberta- that lovely little face in the photo must make you so proud.
Happy thanksgiving indeed.

Margaret D. McGee said...

Great post -- thanks, Roberta. It leads me into new paths of gratefulness.