From time to time I don’t have a whole lot to say about one thing, but a lot of little things about the same thing. This is one of those posts.
1. I work in a home furnishings store. We had our series of transitions from fall to Christmas merchandise starting October 17th. An upset customer asked me bluntly the other day: “Why do you people insist on forgetting the holiday where we are thankful?” I guess I didn’t realize we weren’t thankful on Christmas…
2. I was reminded today that this will be the fourth Thanksgiving in a row that I haven’t been with my family. This is bittersweet, of course. Each year I am happily adopted by a different family, glad to have one more at their table. Last year it was Sherry Ketner’s family, dear friends of mine back in Northwest, Arkansas. They took me in, we played games, ate to our heart’s content and then a little more. In the fall of 2008 I was overseas, probably in Israel, eating with my Greece family. I have been lucky enough to find family wherever I am am this time of year, but you always miss home.
3. This year I am doing Thanksgiving lunch down at Second and Seldon at one of our Communi-D events. We are expecting to sit down with about 150 homeless and poor from that part of Detroit. We’re setting up long tables in the park so that we can have a banquet style meal with our friends down there. Again, I am shocked by the support, love, help and excitement that has been the wind in our sails for this event. We couldn’t have done it alone.
4. I am also eating dinner with my girlfriend’s family this evening. I do really enjoy the Schneider clan and am excited to be at dinner with the lot of them tomorrow. It should be a great time. Again, I am adopted by a family. Additionally, one of them suspects that I might be a closet southern Christian-Radical bent on converting them all and spreading guilt. So, it should be a lot of fun.
5. Friends are important to me and so is hospitality. One of my favorite stories that tie these things together is the story of Mephibosheth (say that ten times fast). In the story, David remembers his friend Jonathan and tries to find someone whom he may bless, since Jonathan is now dead. He finds out that Jonathan has a son. His name is Mephibosheth. He is crippled in both feet and the heir to a fallen king, utterly useless to society. David brings Mephibosheth in and says that he loved Jonathan so much that he would bless him because of it. He gives him a robe, sets him at his table, gives him wine and they eat together. A few things about this:
6. Customarily, heirs of fallen kings are not kept around. They are quickly killed. If David found Mephibosheth to be crippled in both feet, he could have just ignored him. But he was responding to something more powerful: friendship. His friendship with Jonathan moved him to take care of Mephibosheth rather than kill or ignore him. I stive to live a life and be the kind of friend that would give my friends high honor in each other’s homes. I want to be the kind of person whose friends say to each other, “Any friend of Coleman’s is a friend of mine.” I want my friends to place each other in high honor in each other’s homes. Because there is something more important than the logistics of one more mouth to feed, one more chair to put at the table, more important than who is staying where. There is a very real sense of honoring others when you welcome someone–anyone–to your table.
7. Mephibosheth is the homeless guy in the wheel chair with the cardboard sign. His family was killed in war, he is unable to work, he is out of luck. David had him rolled in and set at his table with him. He took him from where we was, brought Mephibosheth in to community and blessed him with more than he ever had.
8. There is another verse in the Bible that really hits home right now. Psalm 68:8 says “God will put the lonely in families…” This has always rang true for me. No matter where I was around the holidays, I was with a family. Sometimes it is the families of my friends bringing me in. Sometimes it is a family of peers as it was in Greece. Sometimes it was the family I was working with that day. This year it is the people of Cass Corridor who come out to meet us at Second and Seldon. Then it is my girlfriend’s family. God puts the lonely in families.
9. Despite these things–great family, great friends and an opportunity to be the person extending hospitality and being given hospitality–I am not feeling particularly happy this season. I am a bit frustrated with God. He has done (or allowed) the effective decimating of my finances and security thus far this season. I have had to give up more than I thought I had, go deep into debt and ask others to toe that line to help me out. I can easily fit all of my belongings into five milk crates. I just had to sell my camera to help go toward paying for my car to get fixed. I work two jobs that I don’t really like so that I can, in my free time, perhaps get to do something that I enjoy and find beneficial. I moved here to do work in the city where people need help and I have the energy, enthusiasm and creativity to make a difference, but now I work two jobs in the suburbs catering to over-caffeinated middle aged women, have no time for the work that I want to be doing, and am still not making ends meet. So, I am having a hard time feeling particularly grateful this holiday season.
10. If you are lonely, may you find your family. If you are not excited about your additional guest, your unexpected relative, your mother-in-laws cooking or the long commute you have to make, remember that you’re doing something a bit greater. You’re honoring someone with your presence, you’re honoring someone with your time, your listening ear, your smile. Finally, remember those who might be looking for family this season. Think about who your family might be a gift to. Because in years past, that has made all the difference to people like me.