If you haven’t yet read yesterday's post, you might want to do that first because reading this entry won’t make much sense without it.
So. I’m assuming you would love for me to tell you just who our Very Special Thanksgiving Mystery Dinner Guests were?
Our Guests were eight men from Outer Banks Dare Challenge, a local drug and alcohol rehab center housing guys who have been off alcohol or drugs for just a few days or weeks. We figured that on Thanksgiving, those men would not only be missing their families but also missing a homey setting in which to celebrate Thanksgiving.
And so when we extended the invitation, we were thrilled when the Director of the Center (the guy standing in the white jacket) said the guys could come and spend the afternoon with us. (Note: We got permission from all the guys to take—and post--these photos.)
Our goal was to pull out all the stops and make these men feel extra valued; hence, the table done up in a lovely fashion with a lot of extra special touches. I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly appreciative, well mannered and fun they were to be with.
When we went around the table and asked what each of them was thankful for, one of them said how nice it was to be treated like a regular person and not like a drug addict.
Another man said that even though they’d had several Thanksgiving meals at churches during the week, this one was the best because they were in a real home and they all missed that.
And later on, another man told us that he would never, ever forget this day.
And this woman? She didn’t seem to have a lot to say. I guess maybe she’s just not used to being around cameras a lot. (Yeah, right.)
The menu featured turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, marinated green beans with Romano cheese, broccoli salad, yeast rolls, homemade stuffing, homemade chunky applesauce, potatoes and gravy, a huge relish tray and four kinds of dessert. And boy oh boy, could those guys ever eat! It made my mama heart happy to see them enjoy every single bite.
After the meal was over, we took ourselves out into the beautiful Carolina sunshine for some horseshoes and badminton. Sarah was right in the thick of it—friendly, cheery and a temporarily adopted little sister for all these guys who were far from their homes and far from their own families.
We saw some pretty amazing sporty/dance moves take place throughout the afternoon.
Sarah got some coaching from one of the guys . . .
. . . and left the badminton game with a lot more badminton knowledge than she’d had going in.
From badminton playing, she moved over to stand with her grandpa and watch the guys play horseshoes.
The day was filled with good conversation . . .
. . . and good “hanging out” time.
And when our eight new friends had driven away,they left behind a glow that filled our home.
They also left behind a pile of place cards, with each of their names representing a special person who touched our hearts and made our Thanksgiving memorable. (And to help them remember the day even better, I’m going to put all the pictures I took that day on a CD and make copies to give to each of the fellas. Since Steve goes out there every Thursday to teach--and also takes a guy to lunch each week--he can be the Memories On CD delivery person.)
I want to close by providing a little extra background as to why we decided to host this meal. While I can’t speak for Steve, the meal was important for me because it gave me a chance to do something at Thanksgiving for someone else’s son.
I knew that most of those men at our table had a mother somewhere in this country who had set a Thanksgiving table, even as a part of her heart had mourned the fact that the son she loved wasn’t able to be there, that he wasn’t going to get to be in a real home for a real family Thanksgiving.
And so, since I didn’t have my own son to cook for this Thanksgiving, this was my year to pay it forward, to pay it back, to pay it in whatever direction I could find. In short, this was my Thanksgiving to cook for another mother’s Nathan, in the hopes that when she heard the story of where her son had spent Thanksgiving, she would feel her load lighten a little and she could breathe a prayer of thanks that the son she loved so much had received the love she wasn’t able to give in person.
There all sorts of reasons that mothers sat at Thanksgiving tables this year without the presence of the children they loved. Some kids have faraway jobs, some have insufficient finances to travel, some have no time off work, some are away in the military, and some might even possibly be in a drug and alcohol rehab center. And since I’m a long time member of the cancer community, I also know that some of the seats at Thanksgiving tables were empty this year because of the saddest reason of all--a son or daughter didn’t survive their battle with cancer.
There are so very many reasons that people we love go missing from our holiday tables. And that gives us so many more reasons to show acceptance and love to the people we have nearby. Because somewhere, they are being missed. Somewhere, another mother’s Nathan is wishing that her child could be home.
And last Friday, at 1 pm? Her son was at home. At our home.
And for that, I am thankful.