I’ve been cooking for almost four decades, but last Saturday was a new experience. I was making candied yams for the St. James Episcopal Church annual fundraising dinner. Once the yams were cooked, I sprinkled mini-marshmallows (the best part of candied yams) over the top and put them under the broiler for two minutes. A minute later I smelled something odd and turned to find the oven full of flames—yes, actual flames. A few shaky moments later I had the dish out and the fire subdued, but the marshmallows were blackened beyond recognition.
I know some people like their roasted marshmallows charbroiled, but this was beyond the pale. I scraped off the burned bits and hauled the remainder of the pan to the dinner, because it’s better to try to do good and fail, than to fail to try to do good at all.
That thought carries over to our county volleyball and football teams, and softball and golf, who all performed spectacularly this season. They may not have brought home state trophies, but their achievements are laudable. I hope each and every athlete among them takes away the sense of accomplishment that comes from hard work, determination and doing the best one can possibly do. If we all purpose to do our best—every game, every match, every week, every day, every task—we can make a difference and change the world around us for the better. That’s not just a sports rule… that’s a life rule.
For those of you heading into the holiday season without a loved one for the first time, our thoughts are with you. Here’s my noobie’s two cents worth: do whatever you need to do to get through. Holidays pass. Life goes on. You might need to try something totally new, or find comfort in tradition. Both are OK. At our house, we’ll be moving around the corner that week (bidding a sad farewell to the lovely—but tilted—house we’ve rented for the last two years).
Next year I think I want to find a shelter for homeless people and spend Thanksgiving serving them dinner. Ethan had a heart for the homeless that I never understood, even on the day he walked down the road with nothing but his backpack to traverse the southwest for three months. I’d love to find the young anthropology major who picked him up near Lake Powell and questioned him for her dissertation, and the family near Durango who took him in and hired him to work their fruit farm for a week (he loved their family-style meals), and the carpool mom who locked him in her car until she went through a fast food drive-through and bought him dinner.
Since that less-than-fun-parenting experience, I can’t pass a homeless person with the same judgmental, self-righteous attitude I had before. The majority of homeless folks Ethan met on his journey were veterans with PTSD and folks suffering from mental illness who fell into the healthcare abyss. Most of them were self-medicating, and the few dollars they got from people to buy a beer made the difference for them between a night of torment and a night of sleep. Few were dangerous, violent or criminal, as I initially assumed.
The last homeless kid I ran into—outside of Walmart in Rifle—had bad acne and was begging for a dollar. I handed him a few bucks and told him to “call your mother before you do anything else.” I don’t know if he did, but I hope so, for both their sakes.
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org