Over 736 million pounds of turkey is estimated to be consumed by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday. Just turkey. Not to mention the stuffing (or dressing, if you so prefer), the casseroles, the vegetables, and the pumpkin pie (oh my!). Upon a scrutinizing survey of your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, you’ll likely find a smorgasbord of sumptuous dishes from which to choose. Of some dishes you may opt for seconds (and even thirds, but who’s counting?), and others will never see your plate. You have that choice. But of the family gathered around the table, you have no such luxury of choice. And as you sit down to dinner tomorrow, that may be all the more evident. You may look up and down the table and note Uncle Joe’s less-than-desirable table manners, Cousin Sally’s endless droning on her current ailments, and great granny dozing comfortably in her chair as if unimpressed by the whole affair. After a good observation, you may see the truth in my statement and lament, “I certainly didn’t choose them!” Well, here’s a flash for you: they didn’t choose you either.
Families, no matter how traditional and upstanding, or unique and diverse, are basically thrown together like dishes in a meal. We may share similar physical traits and even a last name, but that may be where the similarities end. More likely than not, we won’t all agree on politics, religion, football teams, nor especially how best to cook a turkey. Sure, there will be your “favorites” around the table, just like your favorite foods. Cousins with whom you were raised and aunts that were like second mothers, right alongside those delicious deviled eggs. And then there will be the ones with whom you’ve never seen eye-to-eye. The sibling who took every toy you ever had from age five, the uncle whose political leanings baffle and incite you, and the steamed broccoli…oh, the broccoli.
When you take all those different dishes together, though, you call it a Thanksgiving meal. And when you put all those different people together, you call it a family. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never let the fact that I don’t particularly care for green beans affect my opinion of Thanksgiving. And family, for good or bad, is still family, and we still love them every one. We love them because they are part of the whole. Family is part of who we are individually, whether we like to admit that or not. No matter how few our similarities, we are united together like the foods of a Thanksgiving feast. Take away even one dish and it won’t seem quite the same.
As you gather with family over this holiday, I encourage you to remember what unites you each together (no, not the love of turkey), but your love and concern for each other. I hope you’ll extend that love to those less fortunate, those who have no family to welcome them into their homes, and those who have experienced the death of family members over the past year. And as any grandmother worth a salt would encourage you, “Just try it!” Try finding common ground with your Uncle Billy (a.k.a. political nemesis #1), or try to get Cousin Sally discussing something other than her recent bout with sciatica. You may come to find they are just as important to the family as the sweet potatoes are to the Thanksgiving feast.
May the blessings of family and Thanksgiving abound in your household tomorrow and the days to come.
P.S.—Eat an extra piece of pie for me, would you?