The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving, is a time when I love the opportunity to be with my family, eat good food, and reminisce on times from the past.  As I get older however, I am becoming increasingly aware of those around me who have a very different experience during this time of year.  They have either lost someone they love such as a parent, grandparent, or sibling, or they have broken relationships with the same.  Thanksgiving is very strained and hurtful for them.  It’s a dreaded day, often one that’s overcome with sadness.

I didn’t realize how prevalent this situation was until recently, as I began to hear quite a few of my friends whom I know are without their loved ones, address the upcoming holiday.  It broke my heart.  It breaks my heart.  There’s nothing that I can say or really even do to change the circumstance.  I can just be a friend and try my best to maintain an appropriate level of sensitivity. 

I’ve come to appreciate the nods I’ve seen to alternative celebrations—“Friendsgiving,” being one of the most popular.  This nontraditional option has been happening for years, but has recently grown in its popularity, namely in large metropolitan areas.  Scrolling through the “innerwebs,” one can find all kinds of rules for having a fabulous friendsgiving, but ultimately, if you have a big heart and a signature dish you love to share at any potluck…you’re good. 

Thinking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents have hosted their own version of “friendsgiving” for as long as I can remember.  Whenever they opt to host Thanksgiving at their house, they invite no less than one family to join us for our meal.  When I was younger I must admit, I would get slightly annoyed at the thought of sharing not only my parents, but also the possibility of all my favorite foods with someone I did not know.  I held it in as best I could though because I mean, who wants to look like the jerk that fights a houseguest over one of the turkey legs, or the last of the peach cobbler???

Fortunately now, I get it.  There are people who are hurting.  Or new to the area.  Or just not in comfortable communication with their family.  My parents, who come from large families, have military backgrounds, and now pastor a church, understood that sentiment very early in their lives.  They modeled it for my siblings and me.  Whether we caught on right away or not.   I’m thankful for their spirit of kindness and giving, and the willingness to show us how to open up our homes and hearts. 

These days when I visit my folks for the holidays, I always ask who’s coming over and look forward to the opportunity to meet and learn about someone new.  I relish the fact that my parents are seen as a family that loves all people and cares about those who may or may not have a place to land during the holidays.  It is now a real tradition.  It is now an expectation.

I encourage others to reach out and find a way to share love with those who are missing loved ones during the holidays.  It just might touch more than expected. 

Until next time,

~k