Cherished holiday traditions should always hold a place in our hearts, but even greater joy is found in opening ourselves to new customs and practices.
As a classroom teacher, Thanksgiving was the hardest holiday to host. It was mad work to get everything done in the 24 hours between 3:00 Wednesday and 3:00 Thursday, even when side dishes were in part supplied by guests. When my adult children started hosting at their homes a few years ago, I was beyond relieved.
This year, my son and his wife volunteered to host the holiday at their new house. Counting kids, there were over 40 people in a 1500 square foot home. Everyone was welcome: family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm for Las Vegas – a record-breaking 80 degrees – so tables were set up on the patio outside. The adults feasted, while the kids played on two bouncy houses in the backyard. At the end of the evening, after everyone made up their to-go plates, I looked at all the leftovers before I departed and felt sorry for my son and his wife. What will they do with all that food? Around 9:30 PM, I saw the following group text message.
“I wanted to say happy thanksgiving and thank you for coming over earlier. The L…s
were very happy to host such a great group. This message won’t find all my guests so thank someone I missed for me please. I wanted to inform everyone that after feeding our whole group and packing out as much to go with everyone as possible, Steve and I took the leftovers and some plates and went and fed 30+ more people down off Washington and D. You know the spot under the 15. It was very nice to get to take an hour and serve some people that certainly didn’t wake up today with a feast on the schedule. I’ll tell you what- I’ll never worry about the over cooking this family does again. So easy to find people that are hungry. Sleep well family and friends. Blessed as we are. And know you just helped make a couple dozen people feel a lot better on their Thanksgiving.”
I responded back to him, saying how proud and impressed his father (my ex-husband) – who passed away about two years ago – would have been. To which my son responded, “Things are easier when you’re familiar. He did show us how to be charitable.” Indeed, one of my daughter’s earliest memories is of her dad directing her to take off her winter coat and give it to a little girl on the street. She resisted initially, but her dad reassured her that she would get a new one. The experience made an indelible impact on her.
This morning, I spoke to my son about this gracious act. He mentioned his surprise that the average age of the homeless people he met last night were his age: mid-thirties. Some had mental health issues, others had drug problems, and some just had a large measure of bad luck coupled with the lack of an adequate support system. We discussed the impact that a few bad decisions could have on an individual’s life.
Holidays are a time when we remember and mourn for all the loved ones who are no longer present in our lives. While it is important to reflect back upon our happy memories, it is equally important to always look forward. My son is anxious to host Christmas at his house this year and again share the leftovers with his neighbors who live under the I-15 bridge. His new holiday tradition will certainly have an impact on how his children chose to interact with the world around them.