Thursday, November 24, 2011

A day for community

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your turkey (or tofurkey, if that's how you roll) be plentiful and your tables and counter tops overflow with pies, rolls, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, veggies, and whatever other starchy goodness your family and friends serve up as part of your annual T-day feast.

Currently, I'm hunkered down at Andy's mom's house, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (that is to say, I'm watching commercials and commentators, there's very little parading going on) on mute and a special "Thankfulness" edition of a local radio program. Yesterday I baked two pumpkin pies and spent a bit of the afternoon at the church doing prep work for the community Thanksgiving dinner my mother coordinates every year.

Pretty much since we moved back to my mom's hometown when I was in first grade, we've spent Thanksgiving Day at church at the annual community Thanksgiving dnner. When I was in middle school, my mom started to coordinate the dinner (today marks the dinner's 38th year) and since then, she's only taken one year off. Our Thanksgivings aren't spent in a family living room watching football. Instead, they're spent in a steamy church kitchen making mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, et al for 100+ people.

The dinner is often confused with being a charity effort, but that isn't the case at all. It's a community dinner. It's a free dinner option for anyone, regardless of their political, religious, or socioeconomic standing who doesn't want  the hassle of making the dinner themselves.  So yes, there are people who come because they have nowhere else to go, but there are also entire extended families who choose to eat their Thanksgiving dinner in this setting. Delivery and pick-up meals are available for those with limited mobility and we also offer rides to those who want to attend. The tag line for the dinner is "No charge, no sermon."  

This community seems not that far from the original (albeit probably mostly mythical) idea of the first Thanksgiving. That is, everyone coming together and bringing something to offer everyone else. However, in 2011, instead of saying, "You bring the squash, I'll bring the corn" it's more like, "you bring the Cool-Whip, I'll bring the (frozen) corn." Every single ingredient for the dinner is donated and the labor that prepares the meal is completely voluntary.

Our church also houses the county's food shelf and my mom was telling me yesterday how awkward she felt earlier in the week when she was in the church basement setting things up and a Native man came in to pick up food to bring up to the local reservation.While we all know that happy story of cooperation between the pilgrims and the American Indian that we base this holiday around is hardly the whole story, as the man left, he called out "Have a nice holiday!" This morning, a member of the local band of Ojibwe was on the radio, explaining how he feels about the holiday. "We like it," he said. "You don't have to go to work. There's lots of foods. It's an opportunity to say 'thanks.'"

So regardless of how Thankgiving really began, we do seem to agree on what today's all about: coming together, celebrating more than enough to go around, and saying "thank you."

7 comments:

  1. being foreigner to this country I truly appreciate, no I am amazed at your Mothers effort and agree, it seems to be so much closer to the original idea of giving Thanks!

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  2. Ada, I miss you!!! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  3. I have to admit, I do miss helping out back in the parent's hometown at the church's Thanksgiving dinner. It was always so much fun to help and serve and everything. It was all about the atmosphere and the experience.

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  4. I think this sounds like a fabulous way to spend Thanksgiving!

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  5. I love the sentiments for what modern Thanksgiving here means- being with family, giving gratitude, charity, and embracing the day.
    Hope you had a good one!

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  6. i do love the idea of the community thanksgiving! even though we only had 6 people this year, it was a lot more potluck than we usually make it-- and it felt cozier because of it.

    this is an amazing effort by your mom and the whole family!

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  7. What a great way to celebrate the day! I love Thanksgiving :)

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