Something happened at the Carthage Salvation Army during Thursday's Thanksgiving food distribution that Bess Wilkes, in her seven or eight years at the charity, has never seen.
The distribution had just begun, some of the more than a dozen volunteers were starting to carry food to waiting cars, while others were bringing boxes up from the basement, when a man approached Wilkes.
He was in tears.
“I thought someone had died,” Wilkes said. “But he just wanted to give and it overwhelmed him. To see someone that moved is touching.”
The man was reluctant to give his name.
“I didn't do this for the publicity,” he said as I sat with him in the hall of the Salvation Army office at Fairview and Grand avenues.
He was wracked with tears, crying at what he had seen outside.
“Seeing so many people in line out there, to see so many people out there who might be going hungry,” he said. “I just wanted to help.”
Finally, I convinced him to give me his name. Bob Thiessen, Carthage, said he was a runner — he had run Grand Avenue and other streets in Carthage for over 30 years.
He was headed to the bank on Thursday to cash a check, when he saw something he had never noticed before.
It was a line of nearly 50 cars snaking through the Salvation Army parking lot and north on Grand Avenue for almost three blocks.
The cars contained families who had been approved for food baskets for Thanksgiving from the Salvation Army.
“I saw all these cars lined up and I had never noticed them before,” Thiessen said. “All these people in need of food. Here I eat well and I think of all these people who might be going hungry, I feel like an idiot. I just want to help.
“I'm a Christian and I owe so much to the Lord and maybe this is a way of giving back to the Lord.”
Thiessen said he gave $100.
“But does that matter?” he asked. “I just hope it helps a few people, but my reward is with the Lord and my heart will rejoice because of what I did. I gained from this, I didn't lose.”
Thiessen said he was saddened that in America anyone should be in danger of going without food.
“It makes you think of how blessed you are,” he added. “All I want to do is glorify my Lord. He's done so much for me.”