Eight year old Milton didn't panic. He knew his family loved him, Mom and Dad sometimes missed little details. They would be back, he reasoned, but not before Milton learned a valuable lesson about kindness that impacted all his remaining Thanksgivings.
Instead of crying, Milton went to the truck stop kitchen and tugged on the cook's apron. With just a little quiver in his voice, Milton shared his dilemma with the large sweaty cook who smelled very much like old fish and onions.
"Ahem!" Milton coughed as he pulled on the blood and grease smeared apron. "Pardon me sir, but my parents have left me, and you smell like old fish and onions!"
"Whaaat?" exploded the chef, as he turned and looked down on the top of a blonde mop of hair. "I smell like Whaaat?"
The man's voice had a bit of a lion's roar in it, and this scared Milton just a little, so that a little tear leaped from the corner of his left eye. Milton quickly wiped it away with his shirt sleeve, sniffed once, and stood up a little taller.
"First, I asked your pardon, as my parents taught me, so that my following words wouldn't offend you, too much. Then I reported my dilemma, that of being temporarily orphaned in your place of business. And maybe I said something about the flavor of the air I have to breathe in here, but I meant no disrespect."
The chef's responded with a little less volume, but was still scary.
"And what am I to do with you, little mop head? I ain't your uncle!"
Another tear dropped from Milton's right eye, and his nose began to run. Milton wiped both away, and tried to gulp down his fear.
"Well, I was hoping, just hoping mind you, so that you do not get the idea that I'm asking for anything else, that you might have just one little corner. I don't even need a chair. I could stand, and with all appreciation sir, quietly in a safe corner, until my parents arrive."
"This is my table, where I eat. You like onions and cheese on your burger?"
"Cheese yes, onions no, please," replied Milton with a little shiver, because the chef's voice was still gruff, even in his kindness. The chef yelled to the dining room, and Milton was soon letting his eyes and his nose, and all his fears, flow out on the apron of a very motherly waitress.
Milton's parents showed up just as he was slurping up the last drop of a chocolate shake. They hugged him and cried and tried to apologize. His 14 brothers and sisters burst into the kitchen, too, every one of them in tears. The kitchen was all cries and apologies and full of the chaos until the chef pushed them all out into the parking lot with a few roars and a stiff corn stalk broom.
On the way home Milton looked out the van window and saw a sad and dirty man holding a sign he could hardly read. It said "veteran, hungry."
As they moved through the intersection Milton asked his father "Daddy, what's a vet-er-an?" and His daddy told him. "Why is he hungry, daddy?" His father didn't answer, and Milton was soon deep in thought.
"I wonder if his family has left him alone, like mine did. How could they forget him?" And another tear dropped from Milton's left eye.
That night Milton began praying for the sad old veteran, and he had a dream too. In this dream Milton was trick–or-treating, and each house door opened to reveal the sad old veteran holding an empty plate. Milton's response was to pull a turkey leg from his candy sack and put it on the plate, but it didn't make the sad old veteran happy, even though he seemed thankful.
His mother laughed when he told it to her.
"Sounds like you were Turkey Treating!"
They both laughed, then Milton's mother asked a serious question.
"Did the hamburger at the truck stop make you happy?"
"Well it helped," answered Milton, "but seeing my family is what really made me happy."
"How do you think that applies here?" It took a few days and a little more prayer to figure it out.
The next morning Milton asked what happened to their guests. His father told him they talked a little more, prayed, and then he took the men to their "homes."
"And do you know the last thing each of them said before they left the car?"
"No dad, what?" said all of the children and mother at the same time.
"Well," said Milton after every one said a short prayer for each man, "I guess that's what Turkey Treating is for. Can we do it again next year?"
"We can, as often as God puts someone in need of a family on our hearts."