Negotiating Thanksgiving by Being of Service
Thanksgiving Day begins a season that reminds many of us that our earliest negotiation experiences were those with our family.
When I was a child, these were the issues on the Thanksgiving bargaining table
- Who gets to snap the wishbone (does anyone do this anymore?)
- Who gets to sit next to gramma
- Who sets the table and who does the dishes
- Whether my sister and I have to eat what we don't like (me cranberry sauce; she vegetables of any kind) to "earn" a piece of pumpkin (my sister) or pecan (me) pie
Later, in adolescence, the issues changed
- must I follow the parental injunction not to talk about civil rights, pre-marital sex, world poverty, and, the Viet Nam War ALL DAY long
- do I have to change out of my blue jeans, workshirt and desert boots for dinner
- may I have two Thanksgivings - one with my father & one with my mom & step-dad
- MUST I be nice to my sister's new husband
- and, of course, who sets the table and who does the dishes (some things never change)
Still later, when my sister and I had married and moved out of town
- whose table would we gather around for the holidays: mom's, mine or my sisters
- how to accommodate the newly vegetarian in the family
- could I skip Thanksgiving in San Diego in exchange for Christmas there (without my mother bursting into tears)
- and, of course, who sets the table and who does the dishes
Thanksgiving is my own favorite holiday because there are no gift-giving obligations; everyone (more or less) celebrates the same holiday regardless of religion or national origin; there is no limit on the amount of cream and butter that can be consumed at a single sitting; and, everyone is expected to express gratitude rather than complaint.
Not everyone, however, is lucky enough to have family or even friends with whom to gather for Thanksgiving. I have had these times in my own life, when Thanksgiving is a particularly forlorn and isolating day. It's never mattered to me whether I was economically secure or poverty stricken on Thanksgiving. What mattered were those Thanksgivings when I had no family with whom to gather and no friends with whom to share a holiday meal. For those whose lack of family arises from outright rejection (many young gays in West Hollywood or throw-away kids on the streets of Hollywood) there are few days of the year that are more wrenching.
For the lonely and the forlorn this Thanksgiving, I'm posting the following resources and adding this: not just the good, but the bad is fleeting as well.
Around here, public officials and celebrities pretty much have the T-day soup kitchen duties cornered. Don't despair if all of the opportunities to serve dinner on T-day are taken; there is much else you can do to be of service to those less fortunate than you.
If you're in recovery in the Los Angeles area, I have good news for you. Many of the daily 3,000 local meeting groups have 24-hour meetings over the Thanksgiving weekend and many serve Thanksgiving dinner. Check the local directory (here) for a meeting near you (the national meeting finder is here).
Those who are already trained to answer telephones at the L.A. Central Office might give Harvey a call and volunteer to serve as the saving voice on the other end of the telephone during hard to cover hours such as the midnight to dawn shift. The most recent issue of Hello Central (here) notes that the
Los Angeles Central Office continues to be in need of volunteer telephone workers. The only requirement is a minimum of one year sobriety. We need people who will show up when they say they will. Contact Central Office: (323) 936-4343, and ask for Harvey or Langston.
My husband returned from our local farmers market the other day with the story of a woman in line who was making an entire Thanksgiving dinner just for herself and seemed cheerful about it. Now there's a woman who's made peace with her life. For those who might find the solo T-day dinner a tiny bit depressing, you could cook up dishes for others. Here are some organizations to which you could be of service in that way.
- Family Learning Center in Denver
- The Greater Chicago Food Depository
- The United Food Bank in Mesa Arizona
- The Jersey City Community Thanksgiving Dinner (for those looking for a place to share Thanksgiving dinner with others in need - pass it on)
- Give to Nashville, Tennesee's From Hunger to Hope Campaign
- Donate a food basket in Durham, New Hampshire
- Gobble, Gobble Give in Los Angeles, California
- Share Your Blessings with a Family in Haiti
- Donate Food Baskets in Orlando, Florida
- Locate Other Local Food Banks at Feeding America
- take one of these ten suggested gifts to a local hospital or home for the elderly to distribute to those without friends or family
- deliver meals to shut-ins in Nashville Tennessee
- Visit the elderly in Cincinnati, Ohio
Here's what I learned one lonely Thanksgiving Day working on a crisis phone line. Loving feels every bit as good as being loved.
Have a GREAT Thanksgiving!!