It's "people" that make a perfect holiday for me. One thing I urge everyone to do is adopt "orphans" on Thanksgiving or Christmas, or Easter, or Passover or any other important holiday. No, I don't mean literal orphans. I mean acquaintances, even remote ones, who are far from home and family.
Why not open your home and heart and invite these people to participate in the holiday with you and yours? Some of my most treasured holiday memories involve the revolving door of colorful guests that have graced our holiday tables over the years.
It's surprising how many people have no place special to go on holidays. Jobs, education, financial strains or other commitments often cause people to be far from home during these important celebrations. If this describes you, why not organize a special feast and invite others who might also be in the same boat? Friends and family are where you find them and holidays have a way of making kind gestures even more meaningful and important.
One of my most cherished Christmas memories involves a family I barely knew. They took me in for the entire Christmas holiday in my early twenties when the rest of my family had traveled to Mom and Dad's, while I was left to tend the homestead and take care of our animals.
I have been known to take the concept of including "orphans" in holidays to extremes, inviting complete strangers home for Thanksgiving dinner on countless occasions. Admittedly, this will be far too adventurous for many people and probably isn't even considered all that wise, but it's always worked well for me.
One thing is for sure, dinner always has such an eclectic crowd it is never dull and many an important friendship has been bonded over mashed potatoes and gravy or pumpkin pie.
Some of these unexpected guests have become lifelong friends. Others I have never seen again, but for a fleeting evening, we had a brief and meaningful experience. Meaningful experiences, however fleeting, are a valuable thing in today's jaded life. I highly recommend grabbing them when you can.
Some of these unexpected guests are still being fondly remembered years later, like the man who was having such a great time he felt compelled to stand up and sing "You Are So Beautiful" to the rest of the table. Still others have joined the regular Thanksgiving or Christmas crowd, coming back year after year. Others have practically joined the family year round. Luckily a turkey will feed however many people you can dig up, and provide leftovers to send home in doggy bags.
My Thanksgiving guest lists have grown so enormous on several occasions, I have cooked two large turkeys just to be sure. We have never really needed the extra turkey, although it did provide some hearty laughs. Because of a prior job commitment, my English born friend Steve Valentine, was arriving for his first American Thanksgiving after everyone else had eaten. Steve's wife Sharon, who had been there for the whole party, explained that he wasn't familiar with our traditions. When Steve arrived, we sat him down at the table and served him a large plate containing the entire uncarved turkey as a single serving. He was trying to be polite and knew Americans ate turkey for Thanksgiving, but this was ridiculous!
I have managed to cram as many as 25 hungry people into a small apartment for a formal sit down meal. Do any of us remember it being over crowded or the mismatched silverware or wine glasses? No. We only recall the laughter and sparkling conversation and fascinating people we met. The more the merrier, after all this is a celebration.
I am thankful for of each and every one of the holiday "orphans" I have had the good fortune to know throughout the years. They exposed my family to new perceptions, new ideas and in some cases, entirely new cultures. This is a Thanksgiving tradition I will happily continue and I urge others to do the same. The world needs all the positive energy and random acts of kindness it can get.
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