3 Stories of Gratitude and Powerful Love

A narrative project called "StoryCorps" illuminates inspiring stories of generosity and love from across the United States.

By Dave Isay from " Ties That Bind"
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine November 2013

Gratefully Yours

Photograph by Robyn Twomey

There’s Always Room at His Table: Scott Macaulay, 49

In September of 1985, when I was 24, my folks decided to get divorced. I was taught that to be a good son, I needed to be supportive and loving to each parent and to my siblings. But nobody was talking to anybody.

If you were nice to one parent, the other one would get mad at you. So when October came, I thought, What’s going to happen at Thanksgiving? And I just did not like the thought of being home alone—or anywhere alone—on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is not about gifts or fireworks or hoopla. It’s a meal around a table where you give thanks for the blessings you have, and you really can’t do that by yourself and have much fun.

I decided to put an ad in the local paper: If people thought they would find themselves alone, they could give me a call, and I would make a Thanksgiving dinner. That first year, a few people came, and they had a good time. I was nervous about making a mess out of the food and disappointing people. But the food was OK, and I didn’t burn anything.

I’ve held the dinner every year since. Last Thanksgiving, 84 people showed up. Sometimes they’re new to town; sometimes they’re recently divorced or widowed. I’ve had people who were new to the country and didn’t speak any English, but they enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve had poor people, people who come from AA, old people. Also, not counted within that number: I always feed the police. The firefighters and EMTs are in buildings with kitchens and can have their own Thanksgiving dinner among themselves, but the police officers are in their cars, driving around town on call.

Two years ago, a woman with Parkinson’s disease came, and she was not good on her feet. She had been in a nursing home for seven years and had never been out. Somebody told her about the dinner, and she hired an ambulance to bring her, at $200 plus mileage. She had a great time, and she cried when the ambulance returned to get her. She didn’t want to go home.

Most of the people who come don’t know who I am. They know that there’s some skinny guy in the kitchen, but they don’t know my name. I think the theme of my life, and everything I do, could be summed up with the name of an old hymn called “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” I hope my legacy will be that I came into the world, I brightened the corner, and then I quietly left the world unnoticed.

Recorded on October 21, 2010. This year, Scott will host his 28th Thanksgiving dinner, which will be held at the First Baptist Church in Melrose, Massachusetts. He’ll spend the day before the feast decorating the room, and on Thanksgiving, he’ll arrive at 4 a.m. to put the turkeys in the oven.

Next story: The Sergeant Was Her Mother »

“We have the mother–daughter bond, and we have a soldier’s bond. There’s just nothing more you could ask for.”

Photograph by Robyn Twomey

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