Thanksgiving and the weeks before it are very special to me, and are always a time of introspection. One of my fondest memories ever are of my dear Dad, so expertly, joyfully and proudly carving the turkey. No one could ever do it as well, and no one who tried so bravely after he left us had any talent for it. So 16 years ago, that became the beginning of out with the turkeys and in with our new Thanksgiving feast.
Every year we have a big family event of close to 40 people where the mantra is, please invite the family of your family. We have nontraditional food with stone crabs and churrasco. We have talent contests and Karaoke, and participants range from a few years old to 82. They make me laugh, they make me cry, and I pray each year they all return happy, healthy, and grateful for how lucky we all are to have each other.
At dinner we each say something and share important events in our lives and in our families’ lives. We honor those who are no longer at our table, and celebrate our matriarchs and patriarchs.
Before everyone arrives, I know I need to recalibrate my emotions so I can be joyful in the perfect present. I go upstairs in a quiet and private space, and let my tears flow as I mourn - for the loved ones I have lost through death and life’s challenges; mourn for the hungry, the lost, the abused, and the homeless; mourn for the men and women who protect us and give their lives for us who will not get to come home; mourn for the state of our world and the terror in it and lives and hearts destroyed; and for the helpless animals that haunt me.
Joy returns to me in ripples of hope. I see every day and renew my commitment to do every day – random acts of kindness. They spread joy, hope, faith, dignity, and empowerment. Everyone can do an act of kindness young and old, and hope can spread in ways we can never imagine. It is a gift I give myself and I also receive.
I never dreamed a life so wonderful.
Happy Thanksgiving. May we all live in hope.