Family. How does yours compare? You never really know other than water cooler conversation. Oh, your uncle got drunk? The kids made a mess? There wasn’t enough turkey?

I love my family. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with them this year. It’s not a holiday we typically go all out for. I mean, there’s a big meal, yes, but other than that it’s typically just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. I’m thankful for that because I love them. Therefore I love spending time with them.

But that wasn’t the case this November. I was scheduled to work, so I wouldn’t be able to make it home. Unlike last year, the family couldn’t come to me for the holiday. Instead, I planned to spend the day with my coworkers. The company would bring in dinner for us anyway. 

My boss told me to come in later than my usual shift. I had more of the day free, and nobody to spend it with. So I took to the inter webs, asking for a surrogate family. Multiple people replied, offering up their homes and families. For that I am grateful. It’s not a small thing to open up your intimate setting to a stranger. I accepted an offer from a family that I went to high school with. Not my classmates, but my sister’s. Nevertheless, I felt welcomed. Special. 

When I showed up, I was made to feel at home. It was like I knew everyone. Yes, there were familiar faces, but when the extended family showed up, I got the frank “who are you?” question. Which I expected. I am Jamie, the stranger borrowing your family for Thanksgiving. 

It’s interesting to see how families interact. To see the different personalities playing off of each other. 

I got to help in the kitchen. I helped amuse one of the kids with her toys. Then I got to kick back and show off my pool shark skills. Or not. But the moment I was waiting for was dinner. Duh. It’s Thanksgiving. That’s obvious. I was curious to see how they would acknowledge the day because I know what my family does, but I had never experienced another family’s tradition. 

My family takes a moment to thank God for all that we’ve been given. Our family. Our friends and loved ones. For keeping us safe. For coming and dying for our sins, rescuing us. Bless this food to our bodies, amen.

This year, one of the family members started to speak before the meal, recognizing his appreciation for everyone being gathered in one place. He noted the absence of an uncle who was no longer with them, but declared that he will always be remembered — even by the dishes we were eating off of. It’s those moments, the private, personal family moments that we, as outsiders, never know about. It was beautiful. I’m grateful for the glimpse that I got into another family’s core. 

Even with our differences , There is a place we’re all connected. Each of us can find each other’s light. So for tonight we pray for What we know can be. And on this day we hope for  What we still can’t see. It’s up to us to be the change. And even though this world needs so much more, There’s so much to be thankful for.

–Josh Groban