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  • Writer's pictureElisa Juarez

The Welcome Table

November 17, 2021

Thanksgiving is a celebration of harvest, heritage, and home. The table is a central gathering place where family and friends share an abundance of food, traditions, and stories. Around the table we feed our souls and create memories. Growing up in South Dakota, we did not have any relatives within driving distance, so my parents invited others who were without family. This included elderly church members who lived alone, and international students from the university. My parents contacted the school and asked who might like to spend Thanksgiving with a local family, and we would have 3 to 6 students join our celebration. The ones I remember best are the group of six Malaysian students we hosted one year, and three delightful French girls we welcomed another year. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and learning about their culture. What a wise and thoughtful act on the part of my parents, not only for the students but for our family! Living in a primarily white Midwestern town, we rarely met people of other races and cultures. By seeking out those people and inviting them into our home, my parents gave us a wider view of the world and an appreciation for cultural diversity. In addition to the fun and fascinating students, we welcomed widows and other elderly church members who lived alone. They may not have been as lively as the young people, but they brought wise and gentle spirits to our dining table. We learned to honor and serve them, to value and appreciate them, and always to remember them around the holidays when being alone is especially difficult. As I look back on my life, I see how these seeds planted by my parents continue to grow and produce fruit. It was a legacy of hospitality, compassion, and generosity. It’s so easy to reserve our tables for our close friends and family. It’s more comfortable than bringing in an outsider, someone we're not so sure about. I know this side of things as well. I see it being played out on a wider scale in our country as division deepens, destroying the sense of community that would heal us all. I see Christianity becoming less about welcoming the outsider and more about rejecting those who don’t fit into a tight, white mold. There is more hate being dished up than love, often in the name of the one whose message was the opposite - radical love and inclusiveness. What beliefs are stirring us these days? What are we serving up around our tables? What are we feasting on? We starve our souls when we feast on fear, distrust, and self-righteousness. However, when we open the front door to love and welcome those who seem different from us, the Universe delivers a feast. We discover the truth about humanity – that we are all created and connected by One Love. We must first invite and welcome that Love into ourselves before we can extend it to others. This Thanksgiving, carve out some time to go into your heart and open a few windows. Breathe deeply and ask for wisdom and grace. Say, “Welcome” to the Love you find there. Ask It to stay. Feast or Famine, ej Elisa J. Juarez

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