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Essay: Central Market's Feast of Sharing can dish up important lesson

The Feast of Sharing

2-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Will Rogers Memorial Center

Free turkey dinner. Live music, kids zone.

Vouchers for free bus rides on the T to Will Rogers are available at Central Market.

To volunteer, e-mail Justin Combs at combs.justin@heb.com or call 817-989-4700.

Posted 11:45pm on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

For a few weeks now, my son has been dropping hints that he'd love an Xbox for Hanukkah. And, just in case his mom and I are struggling with gift ideas (we're not), he's got his eye on several Star Wars Lego sets that are totally awesome, too.

Nathan's 8, so it's only natural he's looking ahead to the holidays, when kids cash in. But as his dad, I sometimes struggle to find a balance between the desire to see that look of pure joy on his face when he opens the perfect present and teaching him that, believe it or not, Buddy, not every kid has Minecraft. Or an iPad to play it on. Or a roof to play it under.

You don't want to spoil things for your kids by burdening them with life's brutal realities. But you also don't want to raise a spoiled child. It's the kind of moral dilemma that keeps parents up nights. Or at least it should.

So when I learned about the Feast of Sharing, Central Market's first-ever community Thanksgiving dinner celebration in Fort Worth, I decided this might be the time to shift Nathan's focus a little and show him the value of helping others who are less fortunate, rather than just try to explain the concept to him.

HEB, the parent company of the wildly popular gourmet grocery store, started serving holiday dinners to the public 24 years ago in Corpus Christi, and now it whips up 30 Feasts a year throughout Texas. Dallas hosted its first in 2007, serving about 3,500 turkey dinners in four hours. Last year, that number was up to 12,000. And these hearty and heartfelt meals are definitely served. No cafeteria-style buffet lines at the Feast of Sharing. Central Markets' guests -- anyone who is hungry -- sit at tables as hundreds of volunteers from HEB and the community serve them dinners. They can listen to bands playing, choirs singing, meet some new friends and maybe escape for an hour or three.

Fort Worth's Central Market employees have been lobbying HEB honchos for a few years now to add Cowtown to the Feast circuit, and this year on Nov. 6, HEB's Thanksgiving Dinner turbo trailer -- a 45-foot, state of the art mobile kitchen -- will park its sweet smelling self at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, where CM hopes to start a new Fort Worth holiday tradition.

Organizers are ready to serve 5,000 meals in the first year -- 2,000 pounds of sliced turkey breast, 1,500 pounds of cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes, 80 gallons of giblet gravy and 60 gallons of cranberry sauce. For dessert, how about 1,000 pumpkin pies?

Central Market employees are working closely with Tarrant County agencies and churches to get the word out about the Feast, and they're looking for volunteers. Hundreds of them. E-mail Justin Combs at combs.justin@heb.com if you are interested or call the Fort Worth Central Market, 817-989-4700.

I already have, and while my son may be a little young to do some of the specific jobs that are needed, you can bet he will be coming by after school that day to share a meal and meet some of the people that are enjoying the Feast. If I can put him to work, I will.

The Fort Worth Feast of Sharing is Election Day. And when I first thought about that, the timing seemed unfortunate -- a lot of people will be headed to the polls and there's a chance they may not be able to make it to the Feast. (CM representative Heather Senter said it was just where the day fell on HEB's 30-Feast schedule. Dallas is Nov. 8.)

The more I thought about it, though, the timing is perfect.

Throughout this election season, we've been asked: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" I suppose the answer is different for everyone.

But living in Fort Worth -- and America -- isn't just about me, and whether my life is better now. Or whether I can afford to buy every toy my son wants. It's gotta be about something bigger.

Central Market seems to get that. I hope Nathan will, too.

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