Alonzo Weston

The old house on 16th Street would have the heavenly smell of turkey, collard greens, dressing, chitterlings and pies on Thanksgiving morning. My mom, grandmother, great-grandmother and maybe an aunt or two would be in the kitchen rattling pots and pans.

I’d watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade before the football games started. When the games started, my uncles would join me in the living room and we’d make our own noise.

When the food was done, the house would fill with family and friends who stayed until late in the evening eating, drinking and laughing in front of our dining room coal stove. That stove and the family and friends kept the house warm.

James Brown, the Supremes, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke provided the soundtrack for it all.

Everybody came to my grandmother Mama Lena’s house for the holidays. When she passed that went with her.

I’ve heard other people say that when their grandmother died no one got together on the holidays anymore. But it’s one of those things that’s supposed to be handed down. Our grandmother’s mother and grandmother passed it on to our grandmother. We are supposed to keep the tradition alive.

When my dad was alive, he and mom served Thanksgiving dinner at their house with empty plates set for those not there. After dad died, we started holding the dinner at our house with mom at the head. This year, my daughter Nicole will host Thanksgiving dinner at her house.

If you’re thankful for anything tomorrow, be thankful if you have a family and a roof over your head.

Last week was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The observance serves as a reminder that hunger and homelessness don’t stop for the holidays. They continue all year long.

As we gather with our families, take time to consider those of us in need. They are extended family.

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The struggle to keep the basic needs fulfilled is a daily obstacle. It takes only one illness, injury or job loss to place many of us on the path to poverty, hunger and even homelessness.

In the United States, 43.1 million Americans live below the poverty level. Of those, 1 in 5 are children living in poverty. Just over a half-million people have nowhere to sleep at night.

Our social service agencies here in St. Joseph are stretched to the limit serving the needy population. That’s why our food pantries, shelters and other service organizations need support. They provide food, secure places to sleep and other aid to those who need it most. These organizations require financial and service donations.

Our local United Way did not reach its fundraising goal this year, so many of these services will have to cut back.

We can look at the needy and homeless in our city as lazy losers. But like in any society, there are slackers and they are a small percentage of the population. Same way with homeless people. Some are homeless through no fault of their own but get typified by the ones who loiter on the streets and harass people.

I met a mother last week whose family had to live in their car last year. The family has a home now and she is forever grateful.

If you don’t live in the house you want or if not much family is around tomorrow, be thankful for the ones who are there and that you have a home where they can be.

Happy Thanksgiving and be thankful for whatever you have.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.