A little background on myself before I make you say “Turkey-Turkey-Turkey Troops“:
I am a San Francisco resident of 10 years, a transplant from North Carolina, and the younger of two boys. My father was a Fire Chief in my town (with a population of under 50,000), and my mother is still the pastoral secretary of a Pentecostal mega-church. I am gay, and I still have my Southern accent. Needless to say, “Go West, young man!” was more than lyrical poetry; it was a dream and a plan to escape the semi-public life and culture in which I grew up- one that still believes that God will save me before I die.
As for my stance on church, religion, and faith, invite me for drinks. I would prefer to share my thoughts in a more casual setting, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, I live gratitude, give to those in need, and through compassion, give thanks for all my blessings.
Turkey Troops wasn’t this grand idea or program; it just happened and it was never supposed to be anything more than an entry in an eight year old’s travel journal.
Six years ago, Logan, my best friend’s nephew, was making his first San Francisco visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. In an effort to provide an experience that would teach the youngster the meaning of Thanksgiving, I volunteered our urban family of 11 for a Meals on Wheels route. (MOW is a national organization serving homebound seniors.)
In order to give the crew a little flair, I decorated the rented 12-passenger van with holiday tinsel and used spray snow to write “TURKEY TROOPS” on the van’s windows. With Tupac’s “California” blaring on the stereo, we spent four hours driving around the city, delivering meals, dancing in the streets and greeting the homeless with Thanksgiving cheer. That year, 11 people delivered 35 meals. As those in need approached us on the streets for extra meals, we pledged that year never to go out with meals only for homebound seniors. (San Francisco has over 5,000 people living on the streets.)
Thus began our tradition. We started by making bagged lunches with turkey sandwiches, and a year later we added a sock campaign. One of our volunteers also does a hug campaign, hugging everyone he sees. Last year, 180 volunteers prepared and delivered over 3,000 meals and 3,000 pairs of clean socks to seniors, homeless, and those in need for the holiday.
There are a few key ingredients in our Thanksgiving tradition:
We live gratitude by feeding others before we feed ourselves. We start in the morning and finish by noon, sharing compassion with no judgments.
Last year, we incorporated our group. Though we are in the developmental stages, our goal is to expand our Thanksgiving celebration to other cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Brooklyn. We also hope to expand what we do beyond the Thanksgiving holiday.
We are an organization that has the support of the LGBT and straight communities. Our volunteers (about 50/50 LGBT/straight) are a diverse, energetic group that radiates love. Being part of this group allows me to express the values I was raised with in a non-denominational way. It is an opportunity to thank “the Gods” for who I am.
As Turkey Troops celebrates this Thanksgiving, I encourage all dot429 readers to think of ways in which you can live the Turkey Troops mission in your own communities and lives. Teach a child about those in need, express your gratitude for life with a celebration, and, before you sit for your traditional or non-traditional family ritual, find a way to give of yourself and help someone in need.
Now say it, LOUD! “Turkey-Turkey-Turkey Troops!”