Have you considered enlarging your table and guest list at Thanksgiving? It’s a great opportunity to include others as you pause to give thanks to God for his provisions. Granted, that pause is getting shorter these days with Gray Thursday/Black Friday sales inching earlier all the time, but there still is a moment at least for everyone to think of one thing for which they’re thankful.
Why is it that we usually limit the celebration to family? Sometimes the very family-ness of the day causes our focus to turn inward so we neglect to see the needs outside. Undoubtedly, there are people nearby who struggle silently. Some families volunteer to feed the hungry at soup kitchens — a wonderful thing to do — but even they may fail to notice the ones in despair not because they don’t have a turkey, but because they don’t have a family. They are all alone for not only Thanksgiving, but often Christmas as well.
Before the festivities start, think about people in your community who may be alone. Some are experiencing an empty seat at the table for the first time – either through death or divorce. Their raw wounds will be especially tender during the entire holiday season. Surely you can make room at your table for one more person.
Then there are the ones who have never married (yet). I read the following on a friend’s Facebook wall: “Best of luck explaining why you’re still single at Thanksgiving and Charles Manson isn’t.” Rescue them. Believe me, they will be forever grateful.
International students can’t go home for the break, so they’re often left behind in empty dorms and emptier cafeterias. You can show them Jesus’s love and share the gospel by explaining why we give thanks.
As an adult, I’ve had more Thanksgivings apart from family than with them. Overseas, my staff teams became my family, but we looked beyond our circle to invite students and nationals to join us. We all sat on sofas straddling plates on our laps, unconcerned about trivial things like table settings when we had so much for which to be grateful.
One person stands out in my memory of Thanksgivings past. My beloved Berkeley teammate, Doug, used his contagious gift of hospitality and culinary expertise to lead our team in hosting dinners for international students, with sometimes as many as 300 in attendance. But that’s not why I think of Doug today. In April, God called him home. His wife and children will have an empty seat this year for the first time. I wish they were close enough so we could extend a taste of Doug’s hospitality (with my sub-par cooking) and invite them to join us. All we can do is pray for them and love them from afar.
Let’s intentionally make this Thanksgiving about more than our family. We can fill our homes, hearts, and tummies at the same time.