There’s a lot of talk about loving your neighbor these days, building community, and being missional. Every conversation is peppered with admonitions to feed the hungry and invite strangers into your home.
But I wonder, how many of us actually do any of these things?
My grandmother didn’t talk much in general, and hardly ever about loving your neighbor and feeding the hungry. If she were still alive, Baba wouldn’t even know what the word “missional” meant.
But she lived it out, every day, and even more so around the holidays.
I can’t remember a holiday meal that didn’t include countless faces, many of them outcasts or just lonely people. Our Thanksgiving table was actually several tables comprised of people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some were family, some were friends, and some were strangers.
When your house is full of people and you have to cook two turkeys and a ham, you don’t really have time to talk about community because you’re too busy being a community.
In fact, my Baba thought community was so important that we never even vacationed alone. If a trip to Hawaii for Thanksgiving would be fun for the six of us, how much MORE fun would it be if there were 46 of us? So she invited anyone who wanted to come--and even paid for those who couldn't afford it. And just in case you forgot about the “feeding the hungry” thing, Baba packed a turkey in her suitcase and carried a hot dish in her carry-on. (That was before the quart-size bag rule, obviously.)
On Thanksgiving Day, there we'd be, 40-something people crammed into a 1-bedroom condo on the 30-something floor in Waikiki. We'd bring plates and utensils from our own condos and eat in shifts. Some of us sat on the bed, some on the balcony, some on the floor. Most of the people didn’t know each other until they reached the hotel the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But now, four days later, we’d become something more. We were a family, sunburned, windblown and stuffed to the gills with turkey.
I don’t remember if the turkey was dry, or if the conversation turned to religion and politics. But I do remember the feeling in the room. Belonging. And dare I say it? Community.
Though that holiday experience still knits the 40+ of us together, that feeling of community wasn’t contained to just that one Thanksgiving in Hawaii. It lives on in our family traditions where there’s always enough space at the table for one more. That’s the legacy my Baba left for us and a tradition I hope to pass onto my children.
When have you felt like part of a real community, like you really belonged? What would our world look like if we closed the discussions and opened our doors? Who can you include into your family celebrations this holiday season? How might that make them feel?