Opinion | Family

Jesus Wants an Awkward Thanksgiving Dinner

Why extending the table involves an uncomfortable hospitality.
Jesus Wants an Awkward Thanksgiving Dinner
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The best Thanksgiving meal I ever ate was in February.

A neighbor of ours who lived just down the hall from us came by and knocked on our door. He had just gotten back from the food pantry. He held up a frozen turkey, explained that he only liked to eat the dark meat, and he wondered if we might like the other parts? Taken aback, I said we would, and he thrust the entire bird into my arms. “Great,” he said, “why don’t you cook it and just give me the legs and wings?” I agreed, and I invited him to eat dinner with us the next night. He took a few moments to think it over, said yes, and then returned to his apartment.

At the time, we were still having a hard time connecting with our neighbors, the majority of whom were folks battling generational poverty, addiction issues, and systemic injustices. This particular neighbor was friendly but removed. He liked to sip his black coffee on the stoop outside and keep an eye on all the comings and goings, and he also liked to remark on how out-of-place my husband, small daughter, and I were. We tried to be bright and friendly—inviting him over for Christmas, giving him plates of cookies—but the interactions were forced and our neighbor kept his distance. Until the morning he showed up with a turkey.

I knew I wanted to do it all up: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, perhaps even pie. We were smack dab in the midst of a horribly cold, Midwestern winter, and we needed something to boost our spirits. ...

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