This weekend, we'll do something that has become a bit of a quirky tradition:
We'll spend Thanksgiving with strangers.
The first time we did this was in 2007, during our first year of living in Nashville. October approached, and we realized we would be away from our families for Thanksgiving. We were still new to the city, but everyone there celebrated Thanksgiving in November. We made plans for Skype calls to family and a quiet dinner at home.
The last weekend of September, we attended a songwriter party and met a woman originally from Nova Scotia. As we chatted, she said, "You know, I'm attending a Thanksgiving dinner with some other Canadian friends next week. If you want, I'm happy to get you an invitation."
And that was our first Thanksgiving with strangers.
We gathered, ate heartily, laughed boisterously, and far from our families and country, we shared our blessings.
Once we returned to Canada, our Thanksgiving became a movable feast. For a few years, we celebrated with our immediate family. As we began our fall concert tours, we were blessed to celebrate with our extended family in Newfoundland.
But then a few years ago, our touring schedule changed. Instead of traveling east each fall, we started to travel west. That first tour was an epic feat to plan - four very large provinces with lots of driving and absolutely no friends or family between home and Alberta. We were literally on the road for over a month before we saw a familiar face!
As we got closer to the holiday weekend, I realized that I had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving! We were destined to spend this great day of celebration alone, in a hotel room, searching for a 24-hour roadside stop to feed us... The whole thing just felt too depressing for words...
So, I did what we do in the modern age - I turned to social media!
"Hey everyone! We're going to be alone in Manitoba for Thanksgiving. Does anyone know of a church or community dinner we could attend?"
What happened next was more than we could "ask or imagine" ...
The host of our Winnipeg concert came to me, "I realized you're going to be around for the long weekend. Would you like to stay an extra night and join us for Thanksgiving dinner?"
Amazing. We gathered with almost a dozen people who, a day before, had been complete strangers to us. In a wonderful twist, the host family was from Newfoundland, so the dinner was filled with familiar traditions and delicacies.
Then, I got a note on Facebook. "I have friends with a ministry retreat in Dauphin. They'd love to have you for Thanksgiving!"
So Monday morning, we drove to Dauphin to find a beautiful house on the edge of the lake. Again, we met strangers who welcomed us into their home for a wonderful night of feasting.
In gratitude to the family, we sang a short concert for their guests and, wouldn't you know it, there were Newfoundlanders at that table, too!
As we tour this beautiful country, we continue to marvel at this great truth:
The family of God is a real thing.
In every community, we arrive as strangers,
and yet, we are bonded by a love far greater than ourselves.
So this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to welcome strangers to your table, and to celebrate with those who might be far from home. In this way, let's show the love of God to one another, and truly celebrate the blessings of our "home and native land."
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Hebrews 13:2 ESV