Mom was on the phone from Queens, this time with a Thanksgiving message for Philly.
"Stop and realize that someone out there is waiting for your hand to reach out to them, for your kindness to touch them," Patsy Newall was saying.
I will, Mom.
After morning Mass every day, my mother says her own little prayer: "Lord, I pray for a good day and that I can help someone today."
My mother takes Thanksgiving seriously.
"You should tell people to reach out and help a soul, to do a little kind act. They'll feel a little better knowing they helped someone. That's what Thanksgiving is all about."
We'd all do well to listen to my mother.
In my eyes, my dear mother and people like her - people who live every day like it's Thanksgiving, who live every day like it's another opportunity to help - are saints.
In my mother's eyes, it's just what you're supposed to do - what we're all supposed to do every day.
I grew up the youngest of six kids, but no matter how tight things may have been at times for my parents, my mother always found a spot at the table for someone who needed it.
There was Mean Willie, who was old and sick and alone, and didn't like to leave his apartment, so my mom would send me and my brothers over with plates of food and orders to keep him company while he grumbled over his meal.
There was Esther, who walked around the neighborhood with her shopping cart. While my mother sat with her, Esther would go on about how it was such a pity my father was out drinking and carousing in the bars along Quentin Road, when actually my father rarely ever went to bars and was up on the roof cleaning the gutters.
"Hiya, Esther," my father would say.
There was Crazy Jeff, who had his nickname way before he started coming to dinner at our house.
At dinner, Jeff would rave over my mother's cooking and how my brother Peter was the image of Robert Kennedy. Then he would stuff the pockets of his jeans jacket with my mother's silverware.
"Come next Sunday," my mother would say as my father patted Jeff down for cutlery.
And there was Nicholas. Nicholas had a hard life. He grew up near my mother in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He had suffered brain damage as an infant and was bullied. There was always a place for Nicholas at my grandparents' table.
My mother hadn't seen Nicholas in years, but when my grandmother died, Nicholas took three buses to get to the funeral. From then on, my mother always made a place for him at our table.
After Nicholas' apartment was burglarized and he fretted over how to keep safe his most valued possession - the silver urn containing his father's ashes - my mother found a spot for that, too: the top shelf of our hall closet.
"When you get your hat out of the closet, don't touch the United Parcel box, it's Nicholas' father," read the note my mother left for my father.
And when Nicholas was dying alone, my mother was there.
There were many more over the years.
While we talked the other day, my mom was loading her car with winter hats and gloves she had bought at Amazing Savings.
She wanted to be prepared. Not like the morning last week when she saw the Salvation Army woman, gloveless in the cold wind coming off the bay, ringing her bell outside the Stop & Shop. My mom didn't have an extra pair of gloves that day, so she grabbed her fuzzy blue ones from the car for the woman to wear.
"Just reach out - do a little kind deed," my mother said. Make a place for someone at the table who needs it, she said.
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