He was from Germany.
His English was limited, but he needed assistance, so he made his way to the church where my father led a congregation.
After a short visit with the man, my father learned that he was alone in our country, his family still in Germany.
After making arrangements for temporary financial assistance, my father invited the man into our home for dinner.
It was Thanksgiving Day, after all.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Pet 4:9)
Growing up in a small town, we knew all our neighbors.
It seemed foreign to have a stranger at our table, especially a stranger from a foreign land.
Yet there was a sense of excitement as my siblings and I gathered around the table and met this man who would be sharing with us our traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Roasted turkey. Creamy mashed potatoes. Thick, peppery gravy. Warm baked beans. Homemade rolls dripping in butter. A variety of fresh fruit pies.
The food must have been as foreign to him as his accent was to us, yet he only exuded gratitude.
I don’t remember the conversation from that day, but I’ll never forget the feeling I had—a feeling created by a beautiful mix of hospitality and community, diversity and love.
That feeling never fully left me.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.“ (Hebrews 13:2)
Years later, when I started my own family, I thought back to that Thanksgiving dinner so many years ago—the dinner where my father opened our home to a stranger, and the rest of my family welcomed him with open arms.
I longed to have similar experiences around our dinner table.
So I turned it into a family tradition.
Each year during the holiday season, we invite others to join us at our dinner table.
Sometimes it’s something extra special, like Christmas Eve dinner; other times is something more casual, like game night and dessert.
The menu is different from what my mom served on that Thanksgiving Day long ago.
But the feeling is the same.
What holiday traditions run deep in your family? What traditions would you like to start this year?
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