The Spirit Of Giving
As we celebrate the Holidays this year, our family recounts the many blessings, phone calls, and selfless emails from the many sharing their love during Janis’ illness. As many of you know, in the Fall 2012 our family started down a journey that has forever impacted us – a loved one being hospitalized with East African Sleeping Sickness, spending months in the hospital fighting for her life.
These past 2 ½ years have brought a heightened sense of gratitude, humility, and service to our family – blessed from the calls, emails, messages, and various forms of support – we found ourselves wanting to give in our own way.
Food connects people and is a foundation in our lives – the hospital was no exception. As we shared meals with families of other patients, doctors and nurses, our relationships grew – each meal providing hope and togetherness during our difficult times.
As the holidays approached (in 2012), it seemed clear we would be spending Thanksgiving at the hospital. We saw an incredible opportunity to help the same families and nurses who had been helping us in the hospital – many of whom would not otherwise be able to enjoy Thanksgiving.
A connection was made and an idea formed – instantaneous volunteers appeared, meals were prepared and a tradition of giving formed. Over the last 3 years, Taher and its team members have given over 6000 meals to families in need, with nearly 3400 meals provided this Holiday Season alone.
Our tradition has become rooted in sharing the gift of giving with our employees. Each year we invite our employees to find people in their community, place of worship, and within their own team – anyone who would not otherwise enjoy the gift of Thanksgiving – to provide them the full Thanksgiving meal. Complete with all the good stuff: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, and of course… pumpkin pie, each kit served 4 people, with leftovers. Our team members came from all over the area to pick up their kits and serve them to their community.
Many other team members came by our central commissary to pick up the Thanksgiving Meal Kit and personally deliver them to families’ homes. Story after story was shared about how grateful the recipients were to receive a holiday meal. Many, with tears streaming down their cheeks, remarked how special this act of kindness meant to their celebration. “This experience has untapped a volunteering bug in me! I have already called my local food shelf to offer my services…” shares a team member who gave both meal kits AND volunteered on Thanksgiving to serve families. In our partnership with Urban Ventures in Minneapolis, MN, another team member shared, “One guy stopped and asked if he could hug me as he felt I was an Angel sent from above and answered his prayer for food as he was homeless and ill.”
It is in this “Spirit of Giving,” we all realize the profound influence that it really is better to give than receive. The lives we touch, including our own, remain better because we stay connected – in mind, in face and in spirit. A gift of nourishment is a simple and selfless expression that should be celebrated every day, not just on holidays. To that end, our Thanksgiving tradition of providing meal kits is one example born out of some very dark days within our own family. With prayers, with kind words and with hope, we are now, more than ever, poised to continue our tradition of giving of ourselves to those who need our help and kindness. May this expression last all year long in ways known and unknown by our committed and dedicated employees.
Our CEO, Bruce Taher, touched by the never-ending selfless giving from the nurses and doctors at Abbott Northwestern every day as he sat by Janis’ bed, discovered his own niche. With the support of our restaurant Forepaugh’s in St. Paul, MN, the Taher family head back every Thanksgiving to personally serve meals to the nurses, doctors, and families in the ICU. “To be able to thank them, personally and collectively, for the miracles they pull off every day, and a lot of the time pretty thanklessly. It means everything to our family,” says Janis. Talking with the families there in the ICU, in the midst of their own battles, to share a story of survival and offer a small break from the stress through the simple unity of food, is the most special thing done all year.
In this season of hope, the lessons learned over the past 2 ½ years of near tragedy to triumph, arm ourselves with the belief we must stay connected to help improve each other and make the world a little bit brighter for all.
Happy Holidays to each of you and your families!
A Twin Cities woman is giving thanks Thursday with a special visit to the people who saved her life.