What Happened When A Stranger Showed Up At Thanksgiving

I freakin love thanksgiving.

It's one of those times where two of my favorite things come together: Food & Family.

This year was a little crazier than usual for us because we'd recently relocated to Atlanta from Chicago. So instead of traveling to see our family, we told our family to come to us...which equated to about 23 people eating at our home on Thanksgiving Day (HOLY MOLY).

Several air mattresses, plane tickets, rented tables/chairs, and multiple helpings of turkey food later, we (somehow) pulled it off. The end result was a lively room full of happily stuffed diners. But out of those 23 people at the table, one of them was extra special to me.

Enter, my new neighbor, Darryl.

Now, I'd only had two conversations with Darryl before Thanksgiving, but I'd already learned he was:

  • 52 years old
  • A Father
  • Divorced after 14 years
  • Willing to cut anyone's grass, even if they had no money
  • The only American living in the Haitian boarding house next door

Thanksgiving morning, I saw him raking leaves in his backyard while we were cooking. Normally, I would've said hello, possibly made a comment about the weather, and then carried on with my business. But I've been reading this incredible book calledThe Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon & Jay Pathak, which explores the thought: Since Jesus told us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, what if we literally started by loving our neighbors? (Yeah, the ones right next door). Think about it: when was the last time you had a real conversation with one of your neighbors...or learned something about them deeper than the make and model of their car...or prayed for/with them...or even took the time to learn their name?

You know those moments when the Holy Spirit tugs at your heart like crazy to the point where you can't ignore Him? Yeah, that moment happened. And the Lord was all like, "Bruh...invite him to dinner."

And of course, I was all like...

  • "No, Jesus.
  • That would be weird.
  • He's not family.
  • He probably already has plans.
  • He doesn't know anybody at our house.
  • No way."

Annnnnnnd of course, seeing as Jesus is a pretty convincing dude, I ended up inviting Darryl over for dinner. Even as the words left my mouth, I was thinking, God please don't let this be weird.

But guess what?

it wasn't weird.

None of my family members looked at him like an outsider.

He was welcomed.

He was embraced.

He was one of us.

And here's the best part: after dinner, he told me that he hadn't had a full sit-down meal with a family like that since the day he and his wife got divorced 14 years ago.


My heart broke in that moment. Darryl had been prepared to spend the Thanksgiving holiday (a time when families traditionally come together to laugh, eat, cry, dance, act a fool, play games together, and catch the "itis")...alone.

The Lord reminded me that day (and I'm reminding you now) that no one can do life alone. God wired us to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships here on Earth. If you want to change the world or make an impact in your generation, why not start by loving the people you see every day?

Think about this:

Is your community better because you're there?

Is your school a brighter place because you go there?

Is your family more loving because you're a part of it?

I encourage you to love God and love people like crazy.

And if this touched your heart, share it with a friend.

I love you,
- GF

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