Thanksgiving with Strangers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Christmas

Allison Lynn

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Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude.
~Nigel Hamilton

It was just three days from Thanksgiving, and my husband, Gerald, and I were very far from home. As a touring music duo, we’d gotten used to being away from our family for months on end. We’d missed countless birthdays, anniversaries, and family celebrations because of our unconventional work schedule.

But this was the first time we were going to be away from our families for Thanksgiving. We were currently on our first tour across the Canadian prairies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we didn’t know anyone for hundreds of miles!

Technically, I knew we would be away for Thanksgiving, but the reality of it didn’t really dawn on me before we hit the road. Now, the date loomed on the calendar.

I could just see it: In three days, we would be alone in a hotel room, eating cheap take-out, watching reruns on hotel cable, and feeling very sorry for ourselves.

The thought of it was more than I could bear.

I decided to be proactive. I wrote a post on Facebook: “We’re about to spend Thanksgiving alone in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Does anyone know of a church or community center hosting a public dinner?”

There, I thought. With all the people we know, someone has to have some idea!

A friend immediately wrote back. “My friends live outside the city. I’ll connect you with them.”

So, three days later, we found ourselves driving to the small town of Dauphin, Manitoba, to spend Thanksgiving with strangers.

Our hand-scrawled directions led us off the highway and down a gravel road. We pulled up in front of a small, lakeside house. A smiling couple waved at us from the front porch. Gerald and I stepped out of the car, a little tired, a little hungry, and mildly apprehensive. Thanksgiving is a time for family. Would it be okay to intrude on this private celebration?

As we stepped into Betty and Gary’s home, we were immediately met with warmth. The wood stove took every bit of fall chill out of the air. The sun on the glittering lake was blindingly beautiful, and the smell of food enveloped us like a soft blanket. Turkey, stuffing, veggies, and piles of desserts — what a feast!

And the warmth didn’t just come from the home or the food. It came from Betty, Gary, and their guests. We gathered around the table; introductions were made. We discovered that no one there was family by blood. Instead, we were all connected by something much greater.

Our apprehension melted away as we were drawn into this circle of friendship. We told stories, shared laughs, and, as the day called us to, gave thanks.

I was raised that you never go empty-handed to a dinner party, but making a dish is a bit of a challenge when you’re on the road. Instead, we offered them something else. I quietly pulled Betty aside and said, “After the meal, if you like, we would love to perform a mini-concert for your guests as our contribution to the evening.”

She replied, “You have no idea how much we would love that!”

So, as everyone licked up the final crumbs of pumpkin pie, Gerald pulled out his guitar, and we began to sing. We shared songs we had written, filled with a message of hope and joy. We sang favorite hymns, and got our new friends to sing along with us. We ended with a prayer of thanks and a roof-splitting version of “How Great Thou Art.”

Since that time, Betty and Gary have become our true friends. We’ve spent many nights in their sweet cabin by the lake and shared countless meals together. We’ve fallen in love with the glorious sunsets that blaze across the prairie sky. We’ve sung in their local church, joining friends and strangers together in song.

We thought we were going to spend Thanksgiving with strangers, but we really didn’t. Something special happens when good food is generously shared around an open table. Conversations begin. Laughter starts to flow. Divisions disappear. Relationships are born. Memories are created.

Through the simple act of sharing a meal together, we discover we’re connected by our desire to love, our need for understanding, and our common humanity.

What a perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

— Allison Lynn —

Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC 2022. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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