Homeless but Still Thankful at Thanksgiving. What’s Your Gratitude Level?

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.
despite-being-homeless-in-2016-im-thankful-forIt’s almost “Thanksgiving” again at Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter.

It’s hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving Day will mark the 31st successive time we have shared the blessing of Thanksgiving with Albuquerque’s many homeless and abused women and homeless families.

I’m so thankful to the Lord and our wonderful family of donors for helping make this ministry of compassion possible.

Thanks to YOU, during 2016 we have been able to serve many thousands of hot and nutritious meals to hungry people, minister to many spiritually needy men, women, boys and girls in our chapel services and life recovery classes and provide thousands of nights of shelter to homeless people.

I wondered what difference Joy Junction really makes in the life of some of our guests. We asked a few of them what they are thankful for, despite being homeless.

The answers were heartwarming. One woman said she is thankful for God’s grace, mercy, kindness and love.

She added, “I am also thankful for Joy Junction for giving my husband and I a new start on our walk with the Lord. I miss my kids and family, but I am thankful they are alive and healthy … we have had a lot of trials, (but) God has been our rock.”

One guest said she is thankful for another Thanksgiving, and being surrounded by people who understand her situation. She added that she is also thankful for help from our staff in assisting her in overcoming her addiction.

Last but not least, she said, “I am thankful for letting God into my heart.”

One guest said she appreciates Joy Junction staff, “Who serve all the residents continually without grumbling. They truly have a servant’s heart.”

However, she was most grateful for God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.

“There is not enough paper and ink in the world to write all of God’s blessings and what I am grateful for. God is amazing beyond what mere words can express.”

Joy Junction Chaplain Marcos Atwood was also on the Thanksgiving list, with one woman writing, “He has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself and who God really is, and for becoming a better person.”

She added, “I am (also) thankful for my kids, my family and my friends and for the staff here at Joy Junction.”

Gratitude for children, family and having a roof over her head was uppermost on the mind of one woman.

She said, “I am thankful for all the people in my life who give me love and support, and that all of my kids have everything they need and are safe and happy.”

She was also thankful for Joy Junction for helping her family through a difficult time, adding “And that the Lord has watched over us and kept us together and safe.’

Despite being homeless, one guest was still able to write, “I am grateful to be alive to enjoy the rich life my Creator has given me. He did not have to make such beautiful experiences in life. He wants us to enjoy life, and give Him our love and gratitude. He wants a relationship of love with us.”

One man expressed appreciation for Joy Junction, and the increased knowledge He is receiving about Jesus and the Word of God while staying with us, concluding by saying “I am thankful that my dog that I miss and love very much is in a safe place with my best friend in Rio Rancho.”

Another guest was very clear about what he is thankful for. “Being sober, drug free and alive and healthy. I am thankful my God still loves me, and that my wife and I are still together and in love. I am very thankful for Joy Junction’s positive effect on me and my wife’s life.”

He didn’t forget other guests, adding “I am also thankful for all my new Christian friends here at Joy Junction.”

A number of other guests also expressed their appreciation for the safe place to stay and three meals a day that donor generosity allows us to offer at Joy Junction.

However, it was these next two comments that especially spoke to me. How about you?

A couple of our overnight guests said, “We are thankful to wake up every morning reasonably healthy, and for a dry, warm place to sleep. We are thankful for three meals a day (especially when they are good), hot showers and my good coat that was given to me from here. We are also thankful to be alive, clean and sober and have the strength to stay off drugs … We are thankful for each other, and for not being in jail during the holidays.”

One man said, “This year I am most thankful for Joy Junction and the opportunities it has to offer. Everything from donors that help fills my belly, to (those) who make this place run 24/7. I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Who makes it all possible.”

A hearty amen to that!

Origins of Thanksgiving Day

In case you’re not sure how Thanksgiving Day came into existence, here’s a quick synopsis. thanksgiving-1

It was way back in 1789 that President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. This was the first ever presidential proclamation issued in the United States and read, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…”

However even back then, not everyone was in favor of this National Day of Thanksgiving. It took 74 years and President Lincoln to set things straight. In his 1863 proclamation, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

After describing America’s blessing, Lincoln wrote, “No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Lincoln also encouraged his fellow citizens that while praising the Almighty for his blessings they also needed to exercise “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience … and to fervently implore the (intervention) of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

Since that time, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by every President. So take a moment, and thank the Lord for the many blessings which we enjoy. Many people worldwide on their best days have less than we do on our worst. With that in mind, what’s your thankfulness level?