I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving all year. In fact, I’ve been counting down to it every day since it happened last year. Why? Well, as anyone close to me knows, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
I love the days leading up to it. I love the atmosphere surrounding it. I love that it’s a holiday all about gathering around with family and friends for food, football, and faith. I love that it means my house is full of laughter, and that my table is full of people expressing gratitude for this moment in their lives. I love that friends find comfort and a sense of belonging and home at my family table on Thanksgiving each year.
I also love that Thanksgiving isn’t about going out and buying gifts (which I’ve come to realize just stresses everyone out, anyway). No, Thanksgiving is about celebrating the gifts that are within us. It’s a holiday that’s about honoring the gift of friendship. It’s about recognizing the gift of family. It’s about opening your heart and your mind to the larger picture of family. It’s about reaching out to those who might not have a family or a place to go and inviting them to the table.
I’ve written many times before about our collective need to belong, and how we all feel a need to be invited and included. Thanksgiving is an opportunity for all of us to recognize not just our own internal need for those things, but the need that our loved ones and neighbors have for it as well.
I know the holidays are stressful for many. (That's why we asked Dr. Lori Gottlieb to give us some advice on handling holiday stress below). I know many people don’t feel welcomed home or like they have a place to go. That’s why I love that my church organizes a Thanksgiving feast every year for those in our larger community who have nowhere else to gather.
Every year, my family serves food at this gathering, and each time, it feels like there are more and more people who line up outside our church for food, clothing, toiletries, and life’s basic necessities. I try to reflect every year on those whom I am serving. I try to express deep gratitude not just for the food, but for the chance to invite them in and treat them with respect and dignity and love.
At the end of the day, that’s what this community gathering is about. It’s about sharing love, respect, and dignity with every person at every table. It’s why this Thanksgiving, I’m going to focus on treating everyone at my family table with respect as well.
I want everyone to feel like they belong. I want everyone to know that I am grateful that they are gathered with me. I’m going to try and make sure our conversations are loving and respectful, and that there is plenty of laughter and love in abundance. I’m going to let everyone at my table know how grateful I am for them, just like I’m grateful to all of you who read this Sunday Paper. I’m so grateful to each and every one of you for championing this newsletter, sharing it, and writing me and coming up to me in person to tell me how much you love it.
You have made The Sunday Paper a huge success by supporting it and spreading the word. Thank you. I find myself so humbled by its success. I’m also so grateful to everyone who supports the work and mission of my nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. The success of both of these endeavors depends on other people.
We all need others to help us with our work and our ideas. We all need others who can help us see ourselves, love ourselves, and find our way forward. We are all dependent, independent, and interdependent at the same time. None of us are an island, and yet way too many of us feel like we are alone.
So this holiday season, may we each try—in ways big and small—to step out of our comfort zone. May we reach across a political divide. May we notice someone who is struggling and offer them a hand. May we buy someone a coffee. May we thank someone for a gesture (even if it happened long ago).
We can all give thanks for where we are this year, and we should all know that we didn’t get to this day and this place alone. This Thanksgiving, remember that gratitude never goes out of style.
PRAYER OF THE WEEKDear God, may I give thanks this Thanksgiving for all your blessings. As I enter this holiday season, may I remember that the best gifts are those within that you have already given me. Amen.
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