Just Thanksgiving

Near the corner of 4th and Orange in Long Beach, California, sits the Long Beach Seniors Center. 32 years ago, the Los Altos Church of Christ in Long Beach, California began serving Thanksgiving dinner to the lonely, tired, poor and forgotten Senior Citizens of Long Beach.

I was four years old when we started. 32 years later, I still love doing it. My daughters have been doing it since they were born–the tradition continues.

Some people think it’s crazy to do such a thing–saying no one wants to serve others during such a “family time.” As it turns out, lots and lots of people want to serve on Thanksgiving. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, civic groups of various kinds: they’ve turned out over the years along with most members of the church, too. Local businesses donate food. Usually, somewhere between 150 and 200 are served food, given leftovers to take with them, given a talent show by the church’s kids, and given some companionship on what would be an otherwise lonely day.

To me, and lots of others, it sure beats getting up and lounging out in front of the TV from morning ’til night. It seems right to do some just service on a day we call “Thanksgiving,” and Christians aim the day at gratitude to God. What greater way to show it than to serve some of the least of His.

So, I’m thankful today for the legacy of service I grew up with. I’m thankful the Spiveys, Lashowers, Clarke’s, Bentons, Shipps and others are willing to show up at 7am downtown on Thanksgiving, and serve until 1pm or so. Los Altos is one of the greatest little churches you’ll never hear of. They’re great not because of large numbers but because of large hearts that find joy in serving others when many might be tempted to serve self.

After 32 years, the Long Beach Press-Telegram covered it as a front-page story this morning. The picture on the front of the newspaper was of the church circled up in prayer before serving (the first image below). What a wonderful image for the community to see. However, the Press Telegram mistakenly referring to Los Altos Church of Christ as “Los Altos United Church of Christ” (another church in the community) numerous times.

I share this story not so you’ll remember the church’s name. But, so that we might all think about serving next year and the year after–and the year after that. What a wonderful way to give thanks to the Savior.

Here are some pictures I took with my phone yesterday. Click here to read the story from the Long Beach Press Telegram.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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