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Perspective: Prepare a place for others this Thanksgiving

This holiday season, don’t just set places at your table for friends and family. Set places for others you might not normally think to include

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Brooke Lark, Unsplash

Thanksgiving is a holiday with lots of gathering, a fair amount of gluttony and a little grumbling. It’s a season when gratitude and good vibes abound. It’s a time when a feast is cooked, invitations are extended and the table is prepared.

After the aroma of deliciously cooked food weakens our knees, our eyes gaze upon a table that has been meticulously prepared. The table is adorned with beautiful dishes that are sometimes used only twice per year, and it is garnished with seasonal decorations. Painstaking details and hundreds of decisions were all coordinated to prepare a place for you. 

As a place is prepared for family and friends, let’s also prepare a place for a few others. Let’s leave a seat empty and a table setting prepared for strangers, others and outsiders. 

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, the scripture states: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Invite the Lord into your home. Prepare a place for Him. Usher His presence in with prayer.  Don’t hasten to partake in the meal. Tarry in His presence as friends and family, while you remember how the Lord has blessed you. Remember how He protected you from hurt, harm and danger. Remember how He opened doors when you didn’t knock. Remember the grace He gave you at the bedside of a loved one, affording one more opportunity to say “I love you” and “goodbye.”

Invite people you want to get to know better. Prepare a place for them, where they will feel  welcome and warmth from your kindness and hospitality.

Prepare a place for the absent guest — the one who could not make it home, does not know how to return home or will never return home.

Prepare a place for the one who was cast out, ignored and ostracized. Prepare a place for the one who struggled with and embraced their identity.

Prepare a place for the one who wrestled, rebounded, lost and returned to addiction.  Prepare a place for the one who made countless promises and broke each one of them. Prepare a place for the one who was willing, kept trying and surrendered in defeat. 

Prepare a place for the one who lost their way. Who, without a diagnosis or medication, continue to wander searching for a place. Prepare a place for the one who doesn’t know they are lost.

Prepare a place for the one who is alone — the single person, friendless, widow, widower, senior citizen or the one who is incarcerated with many, but sits in a jail cell alone.  

Prepare a place for those in search of a family, who haven’t been assigned to a foster home or adopted. Prepare a place for youth who need a place, a room, a family or a home. 

Prepare a place for your neighbor who may live across the street, worship at a synagogue, read the Quran, speak another language and have suffered loss. Allow your humanity and compassion to comfort their grief.    

Prepare a place for the unhoused, homeless, people who have no shelter, showers or ZIP codes.

Prepare a place in your heart for forgiveness, to make amends, break down barriers, apologize, wipe the slate clean and start anew.   

If any of these people knocked on your door, would you look at your doorbell app and close it? Would you peep through the curtains and close them, or would you open the door and invite them to the place you carefully and compassionately prepared?

The Rev. Theresa A. Dear is a national board member of the NAACP and a Deseret News contributor.