The First Thanksgiving

Cherished Readers,

Here is another Dear Dave letter.  It is the first of two about Thanksgiving.

Thank you for reading!

Blessings and much love,


Nov. 12, 2004

Dear Dave,

Thank you so very much for your kind words and generous gift.  Again and again, I don’t know what I’d do without you.

So far, our fundraising pitch netted five hundred bucks, and the letter just went out a week ago.  I don’t know if I should be ashamed or proud to admit that I sent letters out to all the old bar customers I could find in the White Pages, but I am pleased to announce that checks arrived from three of them yesterday.  From what I hear, we’ll need every penny.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I’m not sure what to expect, but it must be quite an event because people keep warning me it’s coming.  In the past few days, nearly a dozen people asked about the holiday, and it’s not just that they’re asking—it’s the look on their faces—an anxious mix of fear and exhilaration.  I have been told that it requires “a whole lot of turkeys” though the exact number is still a bit fuzzy.  I am buckling my seat belt.  But before the storm—some calm blew in.

I think a holy man showed up at the soup kitchen.  He may be a prophet.  That’s the first thing that popped in my head when I saw him—this guy is a prophet passing through or an angel—he has a supernatural air.  Or maybe he just has a very light footstep because you never hear him coming—you just turn around and he’s there.  Usually I find that unnerving, but with Ivan it just adds to the mystery.

He introduced himself as “Ivan…The Not So Terrible”, which seems very corny as I write it, and a very unlikely name for either a prophet or an angel; but he laughed and gave a little bow and said to “just call him Ivan”, and I was enchanted.  It does help that he looks a bit like Cary Grant. He explained that “Ivan” is short for something, another long and utterly unpronounceable name, but I don’t think he ever mentioned a last name.  And since introducing himself, Ivan hasn’t said much at all.  But he sure can laugh.

He appeared a few weeks ago on a quiet Tuesday afternoon.  I turned around and he was standing at the stove in the soup kitchen, sautéing onions.  He told me that the smell of the onions called him to the stove.  He knew they were getting ready to burn; he could tell by their aroma.  He was compelled to run to the stove and save us all from culinary disaster.  He flipped the onions expertly in the pan and smiled, and I believed every word he said and loved him instantly.

Ivan can cook, and he stayed in the kitchen and kept cooking.  He’s done amazing things with vegetables.  Suddenly, everyone loves broccoli.  If he’s ever sainted—it could be his first miracle.  I’ve heard several people say that Ivan’s the best cook that’s ever graced the soup kitchen.  One thing is certain, the line for chow is growing longer, and I’m starting to worry that Ivan’s food is too good.

Meanwhile, I’ve watched him pretty closely, but I can’t quite figure him out.  He seems old one minute and young the next.  He walks with a cane, but I saw him dancing like Fred Astaire just the other day.   I asked his age and he laughed, and he has such a great, hearty laugh, and it distracts me and I start laughing too and before you know it—it feels wrong to ask any more questions.

I do know he’s bi-lingual.   I listened as he conversed fluently in Spanish just the other day when he came to the rescue of a family looking for the food pantry.  Even better, he was very patient and reassuring to them.  It’s hard to explain, but he seems to put people at ease and bring out their best.

Whatever his charms, Ivan attracts followers.  The kitchen is suddenly full of helpers, and I’ve watched folks flutter around him for weeks.   At the risk of sounding more like a schoolgirl than a pastor, I too have been fluttering.  Ivan is charismatic.  I think Jesus must have been like that too.

My friend, Donna, is visiting from the city.  She’s a tough critic, but she loves Ivan as much as I do—maybe more.  She’s under no pastoral constraints, after all.  Last night, we drove our handsome and mysterious chef and wandering prophet to the parking lot of a small strip mall in New Paltz.  We idled long enough to watch him go into a doctor’s office, and I do believe he was limping just a bit.  But he never complained or explained.  He just asked for a ride to New Paltz; and when we got there, he directed us to the parking lot, thanked us profusely and told us not to wait—he was “good to go”.  In fact, he’d be gone for a while, but he’d be back in time to help with Thanksgiving.  That was a promise.  And he gave another little bow, and off he went.  I hope he comes back.

And I hope that you have a marvelous Thanksgiving.  Meanwhile, I do believe that you and Ivan will both be in my thoughts and prayers.

Much love,


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.                   Hebrews 13:2


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