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“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other,” Randy Pausch once said.

This article is my attempt at showing gratitude and being thankful for and to my community. In the last few days I’ve learned some important lessons and seen friendship and teamwork combine to change lives. The learning aspect is part of the reason Pausch is mentioned here.

He was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University who took a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and used it to help others understand how to achieve their childhood dreams through a book and presentation called “The Last Lecture.” I’m a former university administrator, and I like to believe that I’m in the group called life-long learners.

Chain of events

Last Friday a miscommunication between a local financial institution and Chiloquin Elementary School found 40 families facing Thanksgiving without a turkey and the trimmings. There hasn’t been an easy answer to how the miscommunication happened, but it set in motion a chain of events that changed my life.

You can tell by looking at me that I do not have a healthy relationship with food. The thought of 40 families not having Thanksgiving dinner was not acceptable to me. No one, on any day of the year, could leave my maternal grandmother’s home hungry. I’m not sure she ever said she loved me, but every mouthful of food she ever prepared was symbolic of love.

God has given me Chiloquin – not in the way colonizers believed they were given places, but in the sense that I always need a project and Chiloquin needs a champion. I’m not a super human; I’m super broken. Anyone who knew me at the height of my career knows that losing my dream job, my boss/mentor/friend and my mother in fairly quick succession took my identity and sense of purpose.

Always the victor

I believe that right always beats wrong and that helping others is the most natural human experience. I knew the board of directors of my Kiwanis Club, Linkville, would most likely work with me. I didn’t believe we could pull off 40 boxes alone. Two weeks ago, I boldly told my club that I wouldn’t do another project with the Klamath Falls Kiwanis Club.

It was my first club and things happened that found me joining Linkville instead. Here is where I confess that I’m stubborn and difficult; I’m also now chastened and repentant.

I went to Steve Spencer, president of the Klamath Falls Kiwanis Foundation, and requested that the Foundation extend half the amount needed to create the boxes. It was a ready-made project. The teachers had selected the families. There was a need. The only thing missing was capital. I promised to fundraise to put the money back into the Foundation.

It was a nice idea, but the Foundation wasn’t organized to help. However, the Foundation leadership puzzled through and found a way to meet the need, while the Linkville board members personally gave so that the majority of my club’s contribution was covered without taking funds from the treasury.

Klamath community

I’m not telling you this story so you think I’m connected and cool. I’m telling you this story to illustrate Klamath is a great community. Tuesday morning, 40 Thanksgiving boxes were waiting for pick up and delivery in Chiloquin Elementary School’s lobby.

There is still fundraising to do to give the Foundation back the money, but it will happen. Forty more families are having a happy Thanksgiving, and one humbled middle-aged woman will be hesitant to make sweeping proclamations for a couple of days.

I echo the sentiments of Abraham Lincoln’s opening thoughts in proclaiming Thanksgiving in 1863: “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

He goes on to speak of mercy, and I can testify that humankind is fortunate, and should be thankful, that God’s mercy endures forever.