This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada.
Holidays are hard for many people for many reasons.
Most of us find our way to turkey this weekend. If not turkey, at least to family or friends for gathering and giving thanks.
Now imagine you are plucked out of your thanksgiving dinner. You are taken away by aliens; strangers. You aren’t allowed to take anyone with you. You can’t take any of your things. You are brought to a strangers thanksgiving dinner and are told this will be your new family for a while. You have to behave. You have to be nice.
It’s hard to really imagine unless you’ve ever been in foster care.
Families are full of traditions that we are not even aware of. Traditions that can be strange to kids in care. For example, does everyone have a leaf with their name on it? Did you remember to include everyone? Thanksgiving isn’t the only time kids can feel left out. Christmas is often worse. Everyone has matching stockings but the foster child has a blank one or a different one? I made stocking for my family years ago and I made 4 extras. There are no names but letters I can hang and change if there are different kids. No one feels like they are not equal or have an inferior stocking.
A friend of our recently had a new child move in. This family all had those expensive and hard to find Starbucks cups with their names engraved on them. It was one of the first things my friend remembered was to go on a hunt for an extra cup for this new addition. She spared no time, no expense and no distance to find one and have it engraved so their newest member of the family wouldn’t feel left out. What an amazing way to make sure this child felt included. Isn’t that what we all want? To feel included. To be important enough to those around us that our names are engraved. That we are made to feel special. That we are not left out.
Is there someone excluded that you can invite in this weekend? There are so many people in your city who have no one. No where to go for turkey. No one who will care what their name is. No one to laugh with or play games with.
I am thankful that all sides of our families are very welcoming. I grew up with strangers around the table. People who had no turkey were quickly invited to share ours. 19 years of fostering has our families very used to new people suddenly added to the table with ease. Our parents treat all of our kids and foster kids like their own no matter how long they are with us. They introduce themselves as Opa and Oma and Grandma and Grandpa. I am thankful for that.
If you already have welcomed guests, foster children, single adults, immigrants, anyone who is not close to family, are you going the distance to make them feel part of your family? Will you take a family photo and exclude them? Will you have a place marked with everyone’s name except one? Will you have gifts for everyone? Are there ways you can be more inclusive? Could you ask if they have any traditions they are desperately missing? Could you include one of their favourite dishes into the menu? Could you Skype or Facetime the one they are missing the most? Thinking of the comfort of others is what Jesus did best. He saw the needs and met them. He did have the added advantage of knowing the hearts and desires of the people He was talking to. We aren’t that cool but we do have the power to ask. We also have the ability to consider how we would feel in the shoes of those at our table. How would you feel if you didn’t know anyone around your Thanksgiving table?