Share Your Thanksgiving Blessings with Others
Friday, Nov. 10, 2017
CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec
A bounty of fall pumpkins and flowers are displayed at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in Sedona, Ariz. The first Thanksgiving feast was marked in 1621 at Plymouth to celebrate a good harvest. Thanksgiving is celebrated Nov. 24 this year.
It was Thanksgiving. We were hosting the Burchett clan – a small, intimate affair that year of only 30 or so. The doorbell rang and two college-aged boys asked if this was “Aunt Veola’s house.” They were on ski patrol with two of my nephews – when Matt or Dom found out they didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner, they sent them to the family gathering, knowing we would feed their friends. As the boys circled the table in the dining room filling their plates, my sister-in-law asked who they were. I said I didn’t know, but her sons had sent them. My nephews turned up later and validated the story. It’s a fun bit of family lore that illustrates how, on a day set aside for giving thanks for all we have, we can also share with others.
There are many activities families can do to make Thanksgiving more meaningful. The most obvious place to start is by attending Mass on Thursday morning. The liturgy is that for a regular morning Mass, but it’s nice to start off the day by giving thanks to God for all his gifts.
There are other ways to share what we have with others, such as donating food to a pantry. My parish has a pantry and families drop off items throughout the year as they come in for Mass. They also donate items such as bread and peanut butter, or contribute money, for the parish’ sandwich-making ministry. For Thanksgiving, families might volunteer at the Cathedral of the Madeleine’s Good Samaritan program or at a local soup kitchen.
Hosting a dinner is a great way to reach out. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, sit-down dinner; you could make it a pot-luck and ask your guests to bring something. Most have a special dish they would love to share. It’s even more fun when the dish is from another culture, so be open to changing the “traditional” menu. My daughter-in-law’s stepmother, who is from Iran, makes a rice dish that, when you turn it onto the serving plate, has a crunchy, spicy topping. It’s delicious.
We are entering a time of the year that is hard for those in difficult family situations, or for those who are alone. The elderly immediately come to mind. Their children may have moved out of the area and may not be able to come for Thanksgiving. You may know a college student that can’t afford to go home. Seasonal workers, like my ski patrol guests, can also be without family. This holiday, your divorced neighbor might not have the kids to host. A parent serving in the military may be deployed and the stateside parent could be a little overwhelmed.
Don’t forget our parish priests, especially those in the outlying areas. Parish duties may keep him from traveling to his family. Our religious sisters often live in community; however, an invitation might be appreciated because it’s nice to not have to cook.
This week, brainstorm with your family around the dinner table and find ways you can share God’s bountiful gifts; not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.
Veola Burchett is director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Family Life.