Give everybody what they want for Thanksgiving: Offer one harmonious moment of silence and they will thank you. Gratitude expressions–inclusive and authentic–add deeper meaning to the holiday.
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner and your table will include non-religious and religious people of different faiths, you may want to take a look at the Quaker tradition of “silent grace.” It doesn’t exclude anyone. It allows space during the holiday festivities for reflection and thanks. It brings people together.
“Silent grace” before the meal is an inclusive practice.
All present join hands in a circle around the table, and are silent for half a minute or so as they pray, meditate or collect their thoughts. Then the host gently squeezes the hand of the person seated adjacent; this signal is quickly passed around the table and when it returns to the host, people then begin to eat and talk.
You can try variations on this simple idea:
- The host ends silent grace, “For what we are about to receive we are truly thankful.”
- A guest is invited to end silent grace, “For the meal we are about to eat and for those with whom we are going to share it, we are thankful.”
Tweetable: Having religious & non-religious guests around your Thanksgiving table? Here’s an inclusive way to express gratitude. Click to Tweet
By now, family members are accustomed to me asking for holiday Wish Lists or kids’ current clothing sizes in October. Why am I making preparations so early?
Sure, I get online and order before the Sold Out box shows up and I’ve reduced the stress level I caused myself with the “Help!–I need more hours in my day” cry.
But it’s nothing like that.
With preparations done, I’m free to carry a message of grace and love to the vast number of people who need it in December.
Done with our personal preparations, we can look, listen and respond to others who feel things like this:
- “The problem with all the Christian holiday displays is that…others feel alien in comparison. We’re the other Americans, the hyphened Americans. I love the multi-culturalism of our nation, the myriad ethnicities and histories. Let’s really celebrate it.” (Shahar Lubin)
- “I don’t mind the pageantry of Christmas….As long as my views [as a skeptic] are respected and the fact that I don’t attend church regularly doesn’t make me a lesser person in [a Christian’s] eyes, I’m perfectly fine.” (Ryan Johnson)
- “And worst of all, the endlessly expanding extravagance of gifts and parties actually makes these days incredibly stressful for millions of people leading to higher depression and suicide rates. Christmas kills, if inadvertently so.” (Edward Clint)
Be present for your neighbor and for those you don’t know well.
Walk in the opposite spirit. I’m with EJ Dionne who said, “I find it decidedly un-Christian to insist on aggressively pushing Christmas greetings onto those who own religious commitments are different from mine.”
With a headstart on preparations, we can keep an open mind and an open calendar.
A special ed teacher, writing in O Magazine, tells of being on the receiving end of a boy who was paying attention.
“One year a boy in my 5th grade class lost his mother in a car accident…..At Christmastime he saw the other students giving me gifts, so he came in with a two-liter bottle of ginger ale. He said he looked around his house and wanted to get me something special, and he knew I liked soda. I cried.
“Every year at this time, we are called to renew our hope that cold indifference and smug complacency can be overcome by a humble and gentle love powerful enough to inspire [us all].” (EJ Dionne)
Tweetable: Big rewards lie in store for people who make themselves buckle down and get holiday preparations done early. The reward I’m thinking of is not what you think. More here. Click to Tweet