Every year on Thanksgiving, it’s just us.
No crowds. No family. No big groups of people. There’s a reason for this: my husband and I both see our family in October on annual visits, and we see them again in December for a big Christmas celebration. Because of the distance, adding in a Thanksgiving trip is just impractical for all of us.
Moreover, we have no children. Add to that the fact that most of our friends and acquaintances are traveling or hosting their own events, and you get the picture: Thanksgiving is a quiet little holiday for us.
Please understand: the two of us love that it shakes out this way. We treat Thanksgiving as a special, intimate day, make whatever we happen to want to eat (even the traditional feast, only on a smaller scale), wander out doing whatever strikes our fancy and getting an early start on Christmas prep. It’s great. It’s everything our little introvert hearts desire.
But every year around this time, I realize all over again that there are people who might not be nearly as satisfied with this arrangement as we are – and they often go forgotten on Thanksgiving.
There might be elderly folks around you who, either due to distance or loss, are facing the holidays alone – and wish it could be otherwise. Newly bereaved folks are sometimes too overwhelmed to face the demands of the season, and occasionally feel abandoned by people who feel awkward or confused about how to respond to their grief. Couples without children are often removed from their parents and extended families by great distances, and many spend the holiday season on their own. Some college students can’t quite swing the plane ticket to get back to their home city for Thanksgiving or Christmas…and sometimes they’re a whole country away from family and friends.
The thing is, we often tend not to notice this. People seem fine, or we assume they have plans, and so we never really know if they’re hurting, if they long for an invitation, if they’d rather spend the day in the comfort of others. And so most of us go on about our holiday traditions without realizing that perhaps, three streets over, a lonely soul is dreaming about sitting at a table just like ours.
Fortunately, some churches pick up the slack, and host come-one come-all dinners that anyone in the community can attend. But in other areas this doesn’t happen for any number of reasons, and as a result, those in desperate need of warmth and fellowship simply don’t get it.
A while back, when my husband and I first attended a new church, one of our pew-mates nearby was quizzing us about our holiday plans. “Where’s Thanksgiving?” she asked. When I told her we were staying home, she said, “Oh, so you’re the hosts this year?”
I explained our situation. She looked surprised and then immediately reached out and squeezed my hands. “We have two extra chairs always. There’s plenty of food. We would love to have you!” And I could tell how sincerely she meant it.
I thanked her but declined, and explained that my husband and I dearly treasure our little couples’ Thanksgiving. “Oh, good,” she said, when I explained our little tradition, “that sounds lovely! But you know, I always like to ask just in case. If people are lonely, I want them to know there’s food and friends at my house!”
The sentiment was beautiful and Christlike. If there’s no church-led Thanksgiving in your area, if you have the food and the room, and you know someone who might be stranded on their own in this season of warmth and togetherness, just ask.
It can’t hurt. And it might help someone longing for connection.