While the tables were set the night before, almost a dozen helping hands arrived at Bethany Hall more than three hours before the noon meal to assist with preparations. Some were busy carving turkey in the kitchen, others set out other Thanksgiving staples on buffet tables. Before long, the aroma of an irresistible assortment of steamed vegetables, fresh salads and homemade deserts filled the hall.
As the noon hour approached, members of the community began to trickle through the front doors. But before people jumped in line for dinner, Pastor Ben Nardi said a blessing over the meal.
“We give you thanks for this day and for all the blessings you have bestowed upon us,” Nardi began as he bowed his head in reverence. “We give you thanks for the valley we live in, for our friends, for our family, for our health.”
At the conclusion of the blessing, Nardi also acknowledged the hard work that went into preparing the Thanksgiving meal.
“God Bless the cooks,” he said.
The buffet line was an exercise in people watching. Youngsters peered timidly over the table tops at nearly a dozen crock pots of hot, steaming goodness, unsure where to begin and reluctant to act out of turn. A few senior citizens took their time moving down the line, starting with a modest helping of salad before going for a plate of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. And as always there were a handful of guests who exhibited the traditional Thanksgiving dinner technique of piling food on their plates just high enough so it wont spill on the way back to the table.
The volunteers who helped to put on the dinner watched and waited for guests to move through the buffet before helping themselves. With knowing smiles, they seemed to be filled with the satisfaction of seeing the rest of the community enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Once the buffet line cleared out, the volunteers grabbed a plate and helped themselves. As people enjoyed their meal, a calm silence fell over the room as the sound of forks scraping on plates filled the room. Surprisingly, few people commented on the meal itself. But that’s okay. It’s not polite to talk with a mouth full of food.