20 Years of Giving! Happy Thanksgiving, MICDS

A steady downpour of rain couldn’t dampen the smiles or the giving at the 20th annual MICDS Turkey Train! While we were forced to cancel the train portion of the event—where Upper School students form a train to pass frozen turkeys from their end of campus all the way down to the MAC where the St. Louis Area Foodbank truck awaits—the spirit of the event was evident. Upper School students dropped off their frozen turkeys and canned goods as usual by the flagpole in A Lot, while Middle and Lower School students overwhelmed their wheeled bins with more food in their divisions. The air was electric, and not with lightning! This outpouring of support for others less fortunate generated a current of energy that rippled through our community, culminating in an all-school assembly in the MAC.

Lower School friends have been all things turkey for a couple of weeks now. They’ve been collecting canned goods and nonperishable items, adding a feather to the giant turkey in the cafeteria for every 10 cans. Not counting the food donated on the day of Turkey Train, they added 150 feathers. That’s over 1,500 cans and boxes donated just by our Beasley community! Well done, Lower Schoolers!

The Middle School had to recruit extra help to wheel their canned goods down to the MAC. The elevator in Danforth Hall made quite a few trips to transfer donations from the black and white hallway downstairs to the MAC level, and students volunteered to carry more down the stairs. Here are a few stats: the fifth grade donated 580 items, sixth grade came in at 509, eighth grade at 330, and seventh grade brought a whopping 1,643 items!

Upper School students arrived on campus with smiles, backpacks, and frozen birds, along with other non-perishable food items. They sorted their donations by quadrant, with college counselors and the Community Service Committee there to guide students and cheer them on.

Everyone then gathered in the MAC for an all-school assembly. As messages of gratitude were projected on the big screen for the audience to read, members of our MICDS Virtuosi Chamber Ensemble, directed by JK-12 Arts Department Chair Dr. Jo Nardolillo, played gorgeous music. Head of School Jay Rainey kicked off the event, welcoming everyone and introducing Abby Gray ’24 and Ana Estes ’24, our Community Service Committee Co-Heads. They began their remarks with a joke: What was the turkey grateful for the day after Thanksgiving? Vegetarians!

They said, “We are so proud of everyone’s contributions today. Even though we were unable to do the actual train, we still collected turkeys in the Upper School. Because of you all, we’ll be able to spread the love of Thanksgiving to hundreds of families this holiday season. We’re thankful for you. Especially the Wildman quadrant, who beat the Klinckhardt quadrant by just one turkey.” Then, they shared some of the responses they received from their gratitude survey conducted over the past several weeks. Check out what the MICDS community is thankful for in the video below!

Estes and Gray shared that “the Turkey Train provides the largest amount of frozen turkeys for the St. Louis Area Food Bank. Each year, MICDS alone collects hundreds of pounds of turkey and other food items, providing over 10,000 meals. To understand what this really looks like…Turkey Train feeds as many people on Thanksgiving as people who can attend a Muny show. And for any Blues fans out there, think about how we provide as many meals as half the Enterprise Center.”

They introduced St. Louis Area Foodbank representative Jordan Casey, who received a food basket symbolizing our donation. Middle School Community Leadership Committee members Kennan Miller ’28, Isolde Scoville ’28, and Bella Froedge ’28 presented the basket to Casey, who then took the microphone to express her gratitude.

Mr. Rainey shared his thoughts about the meaning of Thanksgiving, and how we can all work to take less for granted, and to be mindful of our many gifts. Here are his remarks:

Many thanks to all of you for your generosity today. I am always so proud of our MICDS community at Thanksgiving.

A few years ago in this same assembly, I shared a story about a man named Buck Pitt from my home state of Virginia, and I thought it might be worth sharing it with you again here today. Mr. Pitt led an extraordinary life. He was an accomplished athlete who in 1942 became the last student ever at the University of Richmond to play as a starter on the football, basketball, and baseball teams. Two years later as a lieutenant in the United States Navy, he was wounded in the Allied invasion of Normandy and received a Purple Heart for his service. He went on to pursue a career in education and ultimately served for 27 years as the president of the Collegiate School, which is a school in Richmond that is very much like MICDS.

Mr. Pitt used to tell a story about a Thanksgiving tradition from his youth during the Great Depression, when his family and other members of his church, in response to the widespread hardship and poverty of that time, would purchase food for people in their community who might not otherwise have been able to afford a traditional feast. They would buy turkey, of course, and stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and green beans and rolls, and maybe even delicious Brussels sprouts.

After buying the food, they would gather to assemble meal baskets, which they would then deliver to local families. As you would expect, this act of kindness was received with gratitude at almost every home—sometimes with laughter, sometimes with hugs, sometimes with tears—but Mr. Pitt recalled one memorable exception. A woman who lived at one of the homes met him and his family at her door gruffly, received the meal basket without saying “thank you,” and then began to rifle through its contents. After spilling out onto her front stoop the food items that had been so thoughtfully and carefully prepared for her, she had only one question: “Where’s the cranberries?”

Now, it is easy to hear this as a story about her—about her rudeness and ingratitude—but it is important to remember that this was a very difficult time in our country, and she may have been dealing with enormous challenges in her life, and her pride may have gotten the best of her when she was offered Thanksgiving charity. One of the most important pieces of advice I have ever been given is this: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is engaged in a great battle.”

Rather than making this a story about her, I would challenge each of us to make it a story about ourselves. We are all, at different points in our lives, the same as that woman on her front stoop, overlooking the gifts of the turkey and the rest of the feast, and complaining that there are no cranberries. Is there really any difference between being given a Thanksgiving meal and wishing it had cranberries, and having an iPhone 13 and wishing it were an iPhone 15 Pro? Or being given an opportunity to perform in a play or compete on a team and being upset that you didn’t land the starring role or that you aren’t getting more playing time? How much time do we waste lamenting the things we do not have rather than appreciating the things that we do? “Where’s the cranberries?”

The New York Times writer David Brooks once admitted that he is sometimes grumpy when he stays at luxury hotels because he has high expectations “about the service that’s going to be provided.” Gratitude, he writes, is the absence of such expectations. “People with gratitude take nothing for granted. [They] are [appreciative] of their continual dependence on others. They treasure the way they have been fashioned by parents, friends and ancestors. [They] are continually struck by the fact that they are given far more than they pay for—and are much richer than they deserve.”

The Turkey Train—even though it never left the station today!—and the food drive in the Lower and Middle Schools are gifts to each of us this morning just as much as they are gifts to the families who will depend on the St. Louis Area Foodbank this Thanksgiving. They are the gifts of realizing that, in the same way that we are providing sustenance and dignity to those who need and deserve it, we have ourselves depended on the sustenance and dignity that others have afforded to us throughout our lives, in ways that we know, and in ways that we will never know. Appreciating the Turkey Trains and the food drives in our own lives, and being deeply grateful for them, is the gift of today’s generosity to each of us, if only we will receive it.

So the next time you hear yourself beginning a sentence with words like “Why can’t I” or “How come we don’t have” or “I just wish,” you might ask yourself whether or not what you really want to know is, “Where’s the cranberries?” And then you might try to open your eyes to the delicious metaphorical turkey—and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and green beans and rolls, and maybe even delicious Brussels sprouts—that are all laid out before you. And you might remember the long parade of people who have brought this bounty to you, and you might take pride in being part of a long parade of people who are bringing a bounty to others in turn.

To give and to be grateful. These are the twin spirits of this wonderful holiday week. Thank you for your contributions to today’s gifts to the Foodbank, and happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

The Upper School Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dana Self, Upper School Arts Teacher, sang a beautiful rendition of our Alma Mater.

Mr. Rainey began dismissal, and students and teachers left to the rousing refrain of the CODASCO Fight Song, played by our band under the direction of Bernard Berry, Band Director.

MICDS is happy to continue serving the Foodbank’s mission to support over 500 hunger-relief programs and local agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and residential programs this year. The Foodbank responds to hunger in communities across 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois by distributing food to more than 392,000 people yearly. Our students, parents, faculty, and staff stepped up in a big way and contributed 302 turkeys, 4,570 pounds of non-perishable food items, and $1,040 during the virtual food drive. The combined food and monetary donations will provide 10,954 meals for our St. Louis community.

It’s been 20 years of Turkey Train! Check out our video celebrating this community tradition:

Erin Hamill, Director of Global Learning & Upper School Community Service, said, “We were looking forward to another great Turkey Train, and even more so this year because this is our 20th anniversary. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we weren’t able to pass the turkeys. Still, thanks to our generous families and MICDS community, we had another successful collection and a pre-Thanksgiving all-school assembly to share our thanks for each other and celebrate our wonderful community. Thank you to everyone for their support of the Foodbank and to everyone who helped put the programming for this special day together, from the Beasley Broadcast and adding feathers to the turkey symbolizing how many food items were donated in the Lower School to the messages of gratitude and music performances during the assembly. I am grateful to be part of this very special community.”

Check out this amazing report from our friends in the Lower School with their latest Beasley Broadcast:

Here are the responses to the “What are you grateful for?” survey conducted over the past several weeks at MICDS: