Feeling the warmth of home during Thanksgiving
By Sister Renee Y.
It is a wonderful thing to feel at home – to feel that, in this round world where we sometimes fit like square pegs, there is a corner of comfort carved out with our name on it. It is the feeling of a soft light in the window when we pull into the driveway. It is the aroma of a roasting turkey when we finally make it “over the river and through the woods” to our old family home.
Last night, I was part of a group that was made to feel amazingly “at home”. I had the privilege of attending “The Great Family Gathering”, an annual Thanksgiving program of the Church of Christian Compassion. The event is the brainchild and “heart-child” of our associate Bonnie Earl, a member of this generous Church. Bonnie and her numerous volunteers cook and serve about 5000 people who are homeless or living in shelters and group homes. And they do it in a beautifully decorated venue with music and entertainment. It was a sight to behold!
Homelessness doesn’t just mean living on the street. It means an unconnectedness that makes us dependent on the good-will of strangers. That unconnectedness can be caused by physical or mental illness, economic devastation, addictions, violence or the wounds of war. Last night, I watched each of these burdens carried into the room by the invited guests and lifted from their shoulders by the welcoming Church members. I saw God’s most vulnerable children welcomed as royalty and it blessed me to see it!
One guest remains with me vividly. He was a young man who had just finished his meal and was making his way back to the shuttle for his ride back to the group home. His simplicity and dependence were evident in his gaze as he looked for his case worker to guide him back. He was the kind of defenseless soul that could so easily be victimized or abandoned by others. I caught his eye and smiled. He responded in a shy stutter, “Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving”.
In that timeless moment, I saw heaven where all of God’s people come – whole and free – to the feast. The scriptures of many faiths tell us that the circle of heaven will include all people and that, in it, the first shall be last and the last first. Last night, I saw once again that this life is a time to widen our circle so that we will feel at home in heaven.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends, I will be asking myself, “How big is the circle of my life? Who is welcomed and celebrated? Who is forgotten or ignored?” Not all homeless people live on the streets. There may be a “homeless” person right in your own family, neighborhood, office or church – someone who has lost the light, the aroma, the warmth of home in their hearts. Thanksgiving — indeed every day — is our chance to practice for heaven. Take the chance!