Before you read this…I must explain. No, this has nothing to do with the automobile. I believe I said I would do things that are connected to it. This one is sort of connected.
I wrote this back in 1995 – twenty-five years ago – when I saw a crisis in a community I belonged to. It was a crisis of priorities – family, yes, but what if you said you welcome "all" and not welcome those who really have no where to go on a given family-oriented holiday? At the time, the response was nil. I have seen things evolve from this since I first wrote this. The spirit of this piece has evolved from community to culture – and I'm glad someone has taken the spirit of this piece to heart. Maybe several someones…
It was originally written for Thanksgiving, but you could also mean any holiday – including Christmas.
I've blathered on enough. Here you go…and Happy Holidays!
A lonely young man sits on the edge of his bed in a deserted room, deep in thought. He walks around in a mindless pace, looking around the room for something to distract him. Finding nothing, he peeks outside. The wind whips through the neighborhood sweeping the sky clear. He's wondering why he's in this space on this, supposedly, the homiest of holidays.
He remembers what it was like with his family on Thanksgiving Day. Father and brothers gathered around the television to see the annual Detroit Lions game. Mother and sisters in the kitchen cooking up a feast for plenty. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents roll in from all over to partake in this glorious of days. All are seated around the long dining room table with the aroma of turkey and stuffing, the glimmer of cranberries, and the tenderness of all of the trimmings. Those were the days of wonder.
Reminiscing about all of those great times in his life, the lonely young man is saddened by the memory. He ponders many reasons why he is not with his family on this holiday. He wonders why his family didn't invite him over for their glorious feast this year. It won't take long to realize that, since it was his family who rejected him for who he is and how he lives his life.
With no loving family to come home to, how can this young man hold on and live through this traditionally festive day? He still hurts for the company, the aura of tidings, the good feelings, and the traditional turkey feast with ones he still loves. But it would take a miracle to recapture those great moments again, and he knows that.
He still desires a family. It would be nice, he thinks, if he had someone to share this day with, even some surrogate family to come home for the holidays to: a family of those, like him, going through the same pain and suffering for not being with their real families; a family who does not reject him for who he is and can give him the unconditional love he needs to be himself in this cruel world we all live in.
The lonely young man slumps on his bed with the sun casting shadows across the barren room. Then the phone rings. He takes his time picking it up but, when he does, he is joyously surprised. It is not who he thinks it is, but someone else who knows him that cares enough to call him on days like this. Especially on days like this. As the young man talks about his emptiness and sadness today, the caller feels the pain he was going through, because the caller had been there before and knows what it's like to stay home and do nothing but watch the parades on television and pop in a frozen dinner for a Thanksgiving "feast." Then, the caller invites this young man into a home where a feast has been gathered and ready to be shared by people like us.
This young man will be nourished with the love and comfort that has been missing for too long. He will find people with stories and jokes to tell, culinary wizardry to fulfill his empty stomach, and kind hearts to tell him that it's OK to feel this way, with the reassurance that he is in a better place. In this company of strangers, he will find friends and "family" that will stay in his heart and mind forever.
It is people like us who can make the holidays special. All we need to do is to find those of us who are sad and lonely and bring them into our lives for a while. We all know what it's like to spend the holidays alone. If we can share our lives with someone, we can also set an extra place for those who hunger for it. It is only one day out of a year; make that one special day in all of our lives.
It is rather unfortunate that this story would not become real for many of us this year. With this pandemic causing more harm than good, we only have the spirit of this story to hold.
Please be safe this holiday season. Reach out to each other in the spirit of this story and of these special days.
Photo by Randy Stern