An Extra Seat at the Table

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we are all getting ready for the biggest feast of the year.  You might be following your timeline to ensure your turkey defrosts on time, or searching through Pinterest boards for those last-minute table decorations. All the planning and prepping to make sure everything comes out just right can be overwhelming.  It‘s easy to lose sight of what really matters — that this is a time of togetherness, sharing, and giving thanks. 

Several years ago we hosted Thanksgiving at our townhouse. There were twenty people on our guest list, which was about as much as our limited space could handle. On that Thursday, we were busy cleaning and decorating our home. Orlando had brined the turkey for a couple of days and the appetizers, sides, and desserts were all done. We’d set up two long portable tables in our dining room and put away the kids’ toys and unnecessary furniture. It was tight, but it looked pretty. In the midst of the party planning commotion, I received a call from my friend Joana. 

“Hey there!” I said. “Are you ready for Thanksgiving?” 

“No, I’m not,” she replied solemnly.  Joana had planned to attend her family’s Thanksgiving celebration, but that morning she discovered that a few of her staff had no place to go. She immediately called her aunt who was hosting the feast. Joanna explained the situation and asked if she could bring a few extra friends to the party. 

“I’m sorry,” her aunt told her over the phone. “But I already set everything up. I‘ve accounted for every seat and made place cards for each one. I’ve tried so hard on making this an intimate, family dinner and it would throw everything off to invite strangers.”

Joanna understood but didn’t want to leave those people stranded during the holidays. She called me to ask if she could join us instead. 

Orlando and I had to think about it for a minute.  We, too, had every seat accounted for in our tiny townhouse and we didn’t know the people she was asking to take. But we trusted Joana, and we knew if it was significant for her to find a place for these people to have Thanksgiving, then there must be a good reason for it. 

So we answered yes. 

Our home got pretty crowded that evening. My cousin brought an extra small turkey to make sure we had enough food and some of us ate sitting on the couch to make room for our new guests. With a few minor adjustments, everything worked out. 

What I learned that day was that no one cared if there was a beautifully decorated place setting for every guest, if our space was too small, or if they had to have a smaller portion of sweet potato casserole. Everyone was happy and everybody felt welcomed.  Joana was grateful to spend the night with her friends and the crew she cared so much about, and we all had a lovely time getting to know our surprise guests. 

It became the most memorable Thanksgiving we’ve ever had… and the one we talk about most fondly. That’s how life is. The moments we most treasure are usually perfectly imperfect. 

So don’t sweat the small stuff. When you live life with open arms and an open heart, there is abundance, beauty and joy in everything.

A Moment of Clarity

Many of us are blessed with family, friends, and a great support system—but many are not. Sometimes the most generous gesture you can make is to make room at your table for that extra person who would otherwise feel left out or insignificant. This is significant at work, at home and in social gatherings, and it is crucial to teach our future generation. 

Three Thanksgiving Traditions That Won’t Make You Fat

Thanksgiving is a time when families unite to give thanks for our blessings and eat too much. But we can’t always be with the people we love on this special day. Your family may be out of town and you can’t visit them this year. You may alternate where holidays are spent— “One year with your family and the next with mine.” You may be divorced and your child is spending Thanksgiving with your ex. Maybe you are celebrating this special day with your family but a special someone you’re grateful for will not be with you. Or perhaps your employees deserve a big “thanks” for all they do at work.

Here are three Thanksgiving traditions meant to strengthen relationships and express gratitude for the important people in your life … without affecting your waist line.

1. Send a postcard

Nowadays, people have so many forms of communication available. Cell phones and computers make it easier than ever to stay in touch. Yet sending a postcard is special. For one, we are not used to receiving cards in the mail anymore so when we do receive one, it’s a novelty. If that card happens to say something like “I’m so grateful to have you in my life,” it is a gift. A postcard requires a little more effort than a text message or an email, which make your person feel special. Finally, a postcard allows you to write things that may be hard to say in person. Writing something loving on a postcard makes connecting easier. And they can keep it forever.

2. Use cards as party favors

Hosting a Thanksgiving celebration? Here’s a way to give your dinner meaning and purpose. Give each guest a card or postcard and ask them to write down what they are grateful for this year. One year we had our kids write a card to each of our family members expressing why they were grateful for that person. My family loved receiving their cards, and the kids loved giving them. Or make a game out of it and put all your guests’ names in a hat. Have each person pick out a random name and write something kind about them. Your Thanksgiving dinner will be remembered fondly as a day of gratitude and love.

3. Use postcards to create a grateful company culture

Home is not the only place for gratitude. Managers, employees, and leaders all need a pat on the back from time to time. Thanksgiving is a good time to create a company culture that expresses gratitude. Place a box of postcards in one location of the office or give everyone their own set. Send postcards to your employees thanking them for the work they do. Encourage employees to send postcards to each other when one helps another or solves a problem. Tell your boss you are grateful for letting you come in to work late so you can see your child’s award ceremony, or thank him for giving you good feedback.

It is always a good time to send a postcard to let people know you’re grateful for them. Make this Thanksgiving extra special with these simple traditions. I wish you a wonderful holiday. And THANK YOU for reading this post.