Sound Off – Turkey Time

A Very Tasty Thanksgiving

Of course, Thanksgiving is about great food and family time. And I certainly have been blessed with a score of memorable Thanksgivings in my own home. After all, holidays become even more special when you can share them with your own children. However, one Thanksgiving always comes to mind amid the hustle and bustle of cooking turkey and ham for the 20 guests that typically share that meal with us. It was a rather humble Thanksgiving meal I ate alone at a Gulf gas station when I was 18 years old. Yes, it was my first Thanksgiving spent away from my family, but it wasn’t all bad. In fact, I learned a lot about the spirit of holiday giving and what it means to include others in your celebration.

Now, I wasn’t eating alone because I was homeless or broke or anything really tragic. No, it was because I was working at Keefer’s Gulf station during my school breaks. I did a few tune-ups and changed tires, but mostly pumped gas. Those were the days of manual pumps and gas station attendants who would pump your gas for you and check your tire pressure. Since I was the young guy in the shop I drew the day shift on Thanksgiving so the other mechanics could eat at home with their own families. What a bummer — sitting alone in a gas station pumping gas for everyone else who was driving to their own Thanksgiving dinners. I was in a pretty bad mood and missing my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

But early afternoon I got a call from the station owner, Big Frank asking me if I was hungry. Seems that he and his family were putting the finishing touches on their own meal, and he was loading up a basket to deliver to me, his lone employee working on Thanksgiving Day. He made the 10-mile drive from his house to the gas station, delivering a huge meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. If memory serves, he even included a mason jar of gravy. Covered in foil and insulated by towels in a picnic basket, he had made the drive in record time delivering it all piping hot. And just as quick as a wink, he was back in his truck heading for home where his family was waiting for his return.

I didn’t know what to say. Instantly my rather crappy day turned into quite an excellent feast. My bad mood lifted, and I thought that Frank was acting like more than just a boss, he treated me like family. I found out later that he did this for all his employees. Whoever was stuck at the gas station on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day always got a fantastic family meal delivered by him. Now, there was nothing forcing him to do this, and certainly we all still grumbled about working on a holiday. But Frank knew that giving up time with your family is a hard thing to do. And by taking 30 minutes out of his own family time, he could spread a little cheer to his employees.

Sometimes the greatest gift of all you can give around the holidays is the gift of your own time. My wife and I now try to help other family members not with just the easy buying of a gift card or placing an Amazon order. We supplement our monetary presents with the gift of time. It may mean standing in line for a grandparent to help them get the best price on a flat-screen television, followed up by installing it and training them on its use. It also means volunteering along with our own kids to help with a pancake breakfast for the Lions Club. And all of these things remind us that the most important present you can give to others is the gift of time. So don’t just phone it in, spend some time with your family, both real and extended. Thanks for the turkey Frank… and for helping to teach me that sometimes the smallest gifts mean the most of all.

Copyright Mike Sokol – former pump jockey. 

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