This post represents a compensated editorial partnership with The Family Dinner Project. Narrative and commentary are my own.
My family has been rescued by a family dinner. Multiple times and in multiple ways we have been saved by an invitation.
I remember the neighbors in Florida who invited us over for Thanksgiving. They didn’t even flinch when we had to cancel at the last moment because they knew my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s sometimes meant we needed to go into protective bubble mode. We were surprised and thankful when they left an entire Thanksgiving feast at our door.
I remember friends in Virginia who invited us over for Thanksgiving the month after my grandmother passed away. My family had just avoided having to move to a homeless shelter by relocating to a new state where a friend was giving us a place to stay. We were in a haze of job searches and state benefit applications. Being able to take a break from filling out forms was an absolute gift. We were able to step aside from our problems for one meal and get recharged.
I remember friends in Maryland who invited us over for Thanksgiving to celebrate. My mother had just found out she had been offered a job and for the first time in a year we felt like we could turn the corner. We’ve always, always had so much to be thankful for at these family dinners we have been welcomed into, but at this meal we were glowing with gratitude and relief.
I remember strangers at a New York City restaurant who sat near us on Thanksgiving day. As my son joyfully and loudly enjoyed his meal they chatted with us and helped make our small party of three feel like a long and extended table of family.
I think of the friends who have invited us over this year to celebrate Thanksgiving. The easy and effortless invitations. “We have room for you.” “We would love to welcome you.”
It’s a beautiful and magical thing that happens around Thanksgiving, isn’t it? Friends and family open their homes and welcome us in. You may think the gesture of the invite is overlooked, but I can tell you I find it incredibly moving and meaningful.
Here’s what an invitation says to me:
You are welcome in my home.
You are welcome at my table.
I want you to contribute and listen to conversations.
I want you to feel like you are a part of something bigger.
You are not alone.
I know I have elevated holiday family dinners because they feel special, but one of the things I’m realizing is regular family dinners have the potential to be just as meaningful. The Family Dinner Project is a movement aimed at inspiring more people to have, you guessed it, family dinners. We all know how great it feels to sit down at Thanksgiving and enjoy lovingly prepared food and great conversation – how can we bring more of THAT into our dinners on other nights?
The Family Dinner Project has lots of resources for meal plans, conversation starters, and suggestions for how to get involved with bringing family dinner to your neighborhood and community. I love that volunteerism and reaching out to connect with your friends and neighbors through a good meal is emphasized. There is even a tool kit to help get you started planning family dinners at your local community center or school.
You can easily join this fun movement by participating in #familydinnerforward.
• Take a family dinner or giving related photo and share it via Twitter or Instagram and tag it #familydinnerforward
• You can share as many photos as you like
• Any photos shared between December 2-16 will be entered to win prizes from Lenox.
(Two winners will be drawn at random and will receive four 4-piece plate settings of the Lenox Entertain 365 pattern of their choice – estimated value of $344 – $400, depending on pattern)
• US Entrants only
Photo Credit: Russell Lee