The prompt for this month's link-up at Hearts at Home is, "No more perfect holidays". I'm sure that most people blogging on the topic will speak to perfectionism and how it hinders true enjoyment of the season. This is important to think about and something I've written about my myself, but as I was listening to the radio while running errands yesterday, I heard something that made me want to take a slightly different tack.
The conversation I heard between a caller and the radio host was terribly sad. The caller was a divorced mother whose children were spending Thanksgiving with their father. Since she had no other family to celebrate with, she was going to be alone. The host then shares that she was in the exactly same situation. She had decided to make the best of it by going to serve Thanksgiving to women in a homeless shelter. The emotion in her voice made it clear, that while she was doing something to redeem her situation, being alone, without family or friends to share the holiday with, was not her first choice.
It made me wonder why multiple families in these women's churches were not knocking down their doors to invite them. I came up with a few reasons why this may be so. The first would be that no one else knows they will be alone. When another person appears to have it all together or if that person has children, people just assume that they have somewhere to spend the holidays. No one tells us otherwise and we just don't think to ask. We need to be more aware of the situations of the people around us. We need to ask to be sure they have somewhere to go. This is especially true of those are more likely to be alone... the singles in our lives, older couples whose children may not be able to come home, and yes, the divorced mothers whose children may be at the other parent's.
The second is that we are too self-conscious about our home, our food, our way of living to feel comfortable inviting others into our lives. We are too worried about what others may think of us to be hospitable. I'm pretty sure that if either of the women were invited by friends to share Thanksgiving with them, they would be so thrilled to not be alone that judging the decor of the home or the fanciness of the food would never occur to them. We often let worry about ourselves get in the way of showing love to others.
The third reason is really how this post fits into the prompt. We may feel OK about our ability to invite others into our homes and we may do so often. We may have the means to provide a lavish dinner for our family. We may even have room for an extra seat at our table. We may be able to invite a lonely person to join us but we don't because of our version of perfect. 'Perfect' is our family group all together... with no outsiders. The excuses pile up... it wouldn't feel right, we wouldn't be able to be ourselves, I only get to see my older children a few times a year and I don't want anything to take away from that, we are so close-knit that an outsider would be uncomfortable.
And they are excuses.
We can still enjoy our families and our children. We can still observe our own unique traditions. We can still have a wonderful time together even with extra people around the table. In fact, the holiday may even more meaningful and memorable because of the extra person. I think we start to fall into faulty thinking that love is a limited quantity; we have to be careful to not use up the amount allotted to us. If we invite extra people into our homes, we believe without realizing it that it will somehow take away from the other people in our lives. But love is not a limited commodity. It is one of those miraculous things that grows and expands as it is used. Love is never used up.
We have to ask ourselves if we are making an idol of family togetherness. You all know by now that I am all for family. Families are important. We must carefully nurture and protect and work on making our families the best they can be. Families are what give us a foundation from which to go out into the world. They give us strength and stability and love. But that is the starting point. Families are not meant to just stop there. By creating a strong family, you have then positioned yourselves to reach out to and love those who do not have families of their own... the lonely, the hurt, the broken-hearted. If we are not doing these things then we have missed the mark. We create strong families in order to be a vehicle for God's love in the world.
So this Thanksgiving is your chance to show God's love. I challenge you to have at least one guest at your Thanksgiving table. Ask around. Be sure everyone in your church or neighborhood has somewhere to go. There's really no excuse for a single mom to call in to a radio show and grieve that she will be alone. I realize this is more difficult if you are travelling, yet if you know someone will be alone, you could help to find a family for that person to join. Or you could just take them along with you. Sometimes problems are only problems because we let them be that way.
And remember... there's always room for one more.