Thanksgiving Day has passed, and I’ve been thinking about the wonderful gathering I attended at the home of my niece Amy.
The table was laden with an abundance of delicious food, and a diversity of people gathered around it. Keith and I and Amy’s mom were the oldest. The next generation included my daughter, son-in-law, Amy, and her husband Dave. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, a high school exchange student from Poland, and three college exchange students from Saudi Arabia completed the guest list. In all, we numbered twenty-one.
With this many people at one table, mealtime conversations are limited to the people sitting near you. So I was pleased Amy had placed the exchange students from Saudi Arabia next to me, and herself across the table.
The conversation flowed easily and was only interrupted when my niece or I identified casseroles and “traditional” Thanksgiving dishes for the students. During dessert the conversation focused on exploring cultural differences. Since Keith and I had lived in the Middle East for a time, we talked a lot about exploring, respecting and honoring cultural differences, especially when you are a guest in another country. We laughed with one another over the inevitable faux pas one makes when in a different culture.
Before we left the table, we scheduled a time for the students to spend a weekend at our home.
Later that day I was able to spend some time alone with Amy. I thanked her for inviting the exchange students and complimented her on doing so. She replied; “I learned this gesture from you, Aunt Virginia, when I was in college in Winona and you invited two foreign exchange students to share Thanksgiving with us. You taught me to reach out to others, especially those who don’t have families to share the holidays with.”
I had no memory of having done such an act, and told her I don’t remember doing this. She then took my hand and led me to the den. Hanging on the wall was a framed newspaper article dated Thanksgiving, November 2008. It featured a front-page story about me having invited foreign students to our home to share a Thanksgiving meal.
Since then I have thought of this exchange scores of times. And while I don’t recall the event, what I do recognize is I made a difference in Amy’s life, and likely the lives of her children, and perhaps even her grandchildren.
I’ve placed a picture of this framed article on my desk, as a reminder that I have mattered. That I have been generous, that I have set an example of kindness and of reaching out to others, even those who don’t look and act like me.
And I am thankful.