Tracy Autler’s life changed in a very unexpected way on Thanksgiving Day, 1993. Tracy was a single mother, living in an apartment in a rough neighborhood, she was doing her best to raise a three-year old while preparing for the birth of her second child, at that point, 8 months pregnant. Living off of welfare and food stamps, her Thanksgiving dinner would not be the sumptuous feast many Americans at that time were preparing. Hers was primarily comprised of canned food. Or at least, that is how she expected to “enjoy” her Thanksgiving dinner.
Staring at the canned food on her shelf, Tracy heard a knock at the door. “Who could that be?” she wondered. She wasn’t expecting any company. No friends, no family would be joining her and her three-year old. At the door was a man from a local restaurant, holding what would be a full Thanksgiving meal, given to her by an anonymous donor. Tracy was so surprised; she spent the rest of the day crying. But more than anything she wanted to know who had given such a thoughtful gift.
Years went by and Tracy still hadn’t figured out who had provided this mysterious Thanksgiving meal. After a period of time, Tracy was able to move out of the apartment, and at the same time began working as a nurse at a nearby hospital.
Seven years later, working at the hospital, Tracy Autler was to discover who had provided that amazing Thanksgiving meal. That day, an elderly woman named Margo appeared at the hospital. It was clear Margo did not have long to live. Margo had lived in the same apartment building as Tracy all those years back, and three days before the end of her life, she took Tracy’s hands, and whispered, “Happy Thanksgiving.”
As author Brad Forsma describes:
In that moment Tracy knew who had given her that Thanksgiving dinner. She would never have guessed that Margot—the unassuming neighbor with multiple sclerosis—was behind that generous gift.
…That one gift had a massive impact on Tracy’s life. Moved by the anonymous donor’s generosity, Tracy purposed in her heart to do generous things for other people too. The very day she got off assistance, she took a basket of gifts down to the welfare office for anyone to take. The welfare officer was stunned. Can you imagine the look on his face? Who does something like that? And that was just the beginning.
Since then, Tracy and her husband have become foster parents and adopted a son. She regularly looks for opportunities to give. The last time I heard from her, she was getting ready to volunteer her Saturday afternoon at the local Humane Society. One of her latest ideas is to leave five-dollar Starbucks gift cards with little notes for her coworkers to find, just to make their day better.
This year Tracy and her family made a New Year’s resolution to find one hundred opportunities to give to other people. How inspiring is that? What I appreciate most about Tracy is that she doesn’t do her giving to be noticed by others. Since that Thanksgiving Day in 1993, she has discovered the joy that comes from giving. Now she’s hooked. She doesn’t give to make herself look good—she gives because she likes giving.
The Latest From Our Blog
Check out articles, featured illustrations, and book reviews on all different topics related to ministry.
I know that not all of us come from so-called “liturgical” traditions, but all of us do use a liturgy of sorts. Liturgy is a compound Greek word meaning “public work” that is associated with the corporate act of worship. A liturgy is any expression of that public...
I’ve heard a lot of sermons during the past 60 years. And I’ve preached a bunch too, well over a 1,000 sermons during my years as a pastor. So, I was surprised when, a couple of weeks ago, I heard something in a sermon I had never, ever heard before. I was shocked....
Gentled by grace. That’s the incredible and inspiring story of Abba Moses the Black. He was a violent thief who became a humble and kind monk and one of the great Desert Fathers who served the Lord Jesus Christ in the 4th Century. From his life we see an example of...