Family getting to you? Be thankful

Published 10:39 pm Friday, November 26, 2010

When we moved to Andalusia, we made it our Thanksgiving tradition to participate in the annual Acorn dinner.

The dinner, founded by Josephine Mosdell more than 20 years ago, is an effort organized by St. Mary’s Episcopal church and supported by other local churches. For instance, this year, the ladies of Christ the King Catholic Church cooked the desserts. “Ecumenical” is a good word to describe the many volunteers who delivered meals.

These days, Jan Morris is the organizer of the Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals. Typically, my husband and I count ourselves among the kitchen crew, but this year our plans were sketchy. So when we showed up to work on Thanksgiving Day, Claude Sumberlin handed us a couple of delivery lists with his trademark maps attached.

It looked easy. It was heartbreaking.

“My wife died this year,” a gentleman who was waiting on his porch for lunch to be delivered said. “My daughter’s here with me, but it’s just us.”

“Thank you,” was all another man, who was totally alone and far too young to be solo on a holiday, said. He, too, was watching and waiting.

A woman who came to the church to eat told me it was the first time she’d spent the holiday without family. When her eyes filled with tears, mine did, too.

Hours later, I could still feel their loneliness. I wondered if instead of delivery, we should provide transportation, working harder at driving that loneliness away for a while. I pondered whether two minutes of small talk with a stranger makes loneliness better or if it underscored it.

And I thought of all the people who complain about family members’ odd or inappropriate behaviors, or those who resent familial expectations. I feel so blessed to have a spouse; to have a reasonably sane family; to have grown up within a circle of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. If the Kimbro stubborn streak pops out and we argue a little bit when that circle forms, it just makes for a good story later.

So if the company’s getting to you today, shift your paradigm. Consider the noise music, the mess art, and be thankful you weren’t among those waiting on the porch Thursday to chat two minutes with a total stranger.