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Thanksgiving Lesson: Can’t Judge a Person by Their Neighborhood

Written By

Kenna McHugh

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” Charles Kuralt

When I was nine years old, my Girl Scout troop organized a Thanksgiving project sharing home cooked meals from four different nationalities. The project not only taught me about ethnic foods but it taught me you can’t always judge a person by their neighborhood.

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We had Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Mexican families who agreed to share their traditional meals. The troop leader organized a chart, so everyone knew where to go on which night during the month of November.

Teresa’s family was sponsoring the Mexican dinner. They lived in a neighborhood with low rise houses, the driveways overflowing with rusting pickup trucks and low riding cars. Truthfully, I was afraid to go to her home. I thought, her family and neighborhood were too dangerous.

The irony of my fear came from a project my mother arranged with my brother’s scout troop. She drove the scouts and me through the same neighborhood where Teresa lived.

I sat in the front seat and looked out the passenger window as my mother slowly drove past abandon buildings with broken glass and crude graffiti “Kill Whites”, “Cop Killers” and “Bring destruction on your head!” There were other dirty words and swear words. Piles of litter sat against the buildings.

My mother said nothing and just drove. We viewed dilapidated houses, homeless people with shopping carts, adults passed out on benches and women in scanty outfits. I was terrified because I had never seen a poverty-stricken neighborhood.

When I found out Teresa was from the same neighborhood, I was afraid of her. I stayed away from her during the Girl Scout meetings.

Knowing I was to have Mexican food with her family petrified me. I worried for two weeks. I couldn’t beg out of it either because it was part of our troop’s badge project.

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Two hours before I was to arrive at Teresa’s home for the Mexican dinner, I had a meltdown and called her. I told her I was sick and couldn’t make it. My mom came home. “I am not going,” I cried. My mom asked what was wrong, I told her my dilemma. “My life is in danger! They might poison me!”

My mom looked pensive and explained that even though Teresa lived in that poor neighborhood her family and home were safe. “Not all the streets and homes are like the ones we saw.”

Teresa’s family lived in a small, old house on a beautiful street with lots of trees. Their home was clean and comfortable. Teresa greeted me, and I apologized. She smiled and said she understood. She and her family were nice and friendly, and the meal was delicious. Not a Thanksgiving goes by where I don’t remember having that meal with Teresa’s family and what I learned. Don’t judge a person by their neighborhood. Feel thankful for friends; feel grateful for experiences; feel grateful for family.