A long-time and loyal volunteer wanted to share a very personal message this Thanksgiving.

Like clockwork every week for roughly 14 years, an anonymous volunteer arrives at Trinity Cafe ready to work. He’s been with us since nearly the beginning and always comes equipped with a ready smile and encouraging word for our guests.

This particular volunteer, whom we’ll call ‘Michael’, has a long history of service, both to his country and to his community. Many years back, Michael retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant, where he had experience working in a human resources capacity. Since his retirement, he has seen and experienced hardship, addiction, and many tests of faith.

Having dedicated so much of his time to those disadvantaged in our community, Michael was saddened to become among the disadvantaged himself. Having lost his job over two decades ago, Michael’s physical disabilities have been a burden that have many times influenced how others see and treat him.

Michael shares, “We don’t live in a naturally ‘just world’. The average person assumes everything is as it should be all the time and those that are disadvantaged are lazy”. He has seen fellow soldiers mistreated and has stood up for the poor who are so often ignored. In one instance, he contacted higher church authorities after he witnessed a parish throw a homeless woman out after deciding that her cleanliness was more important than her apparent need. Fortunately, his voice was heard and that same woman was given the assistance needed by the church to get off of the streets.

But Michael warns that we shouldn’t assume that everyone begins on a level playing field or is given the same opportunities, “The people we serve are often lost in the crowd, suffering with addictions, and mental illness. Some have families that are unable to cope with their problems, others do not know how to stand-up for themselves or clearly articulate their situation. I’ve had firsthand experience of the negative treatment and terrible living conditions that our guests encounter day to day”.

Today, Michael is thankful for having his faith, which helped him to kick his addiction to alcohol. He is grateful for the opportunity he has been given to share his time, experience and compassion volunteering at Trinity Cafe. But in closing he wanted to share one more personal story. Reflecting back to when he lost his uncle just a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday while he was serving overseas, “I never got the chance to say thanks for all of his help and was going to do it when I got home. I was too late. I ask that whoever reads this, thank those that have made a difference in your life before it is too late”.

As you share a meal with family and friends this Thanksgiving, consider Michael’s outlook and advice on how you might show acceptance to those around you, be an example to those in your surrounding community and just lend a hand especially to those in need.