For me, Thanksgiving has been a time of story-sharing from one generation to the next. I recall long tables in the basement of my childhood home filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles, first/second/third cousins, and the random relative or friend who I could never figure out how they fit in the mix. There were often “unrelated” elderly people present who did not have a family to share the meal with. Kids were mixed in with the adults – there was no “children’s table” of isolation. Most of all I remember the laughter and the passing of casseroles, including the jello mold containing unknown substances (shout out to National Lampoon’s Family Christmas).
Many families will not be gathering together across the miles this year in a desire to keep everyone safe – especially grandparents and those with compromised health. However, we can still gather to offer stories and give thanks – over Zoom, FaceTime, or other platform. So this year will be different. Thankfully, my husband and I will be able to gather with my grown children and granddaughter at our home. We have pledged to remain safe in our “bubble” with one another. We will probably FaceTime my brother in California and call my sister-in-law in another part of California during the day. We will share stories and gratitude together.
Since April we have been doing “Family Zoom Time” twice a month with extended family. Everyone has the link I set up and we never know who will “pop” in. One week we invited everyone to wear a hat and the little ones loved it. It has been a respite from isolation to laugh and tell stories, reminiscing of the past and looking forward to the future.
I’m thinking of doing the below activity as we get closer to Thanksgiving. Perhaps you can also try this with your extended family over Zoom (subscriptions are free for calls under 1 hour).
In advance, invite participants (family and/or friends) to share memories of the first Thanksgiving they remember and then the most recent memory they have – perhaps from last year. Encourage them to write or draw their stories (they’ll need white paper, pencils/pens/felt pens) ahead of time. Since only one person can speak at a time on screen via Zoom use Eric Law’s process of Mutual Invitation for the sharing of stories and pictures. Include all ages!
Possible questions to enhance the storytelling:
- How are our first stories different from our last stories?
- what different stories could we have next year? In twenty years?
- What stories could we hear if we asked our pets to tell what Thanksgiving is like?
- What stories could we hear if we asked someone without a home tell us what Thanksgiving is like?
- How could the stories we have heard and imagined change our own Thanksgiving celebrations?
Close your virtual gathering with a simple blessing. Some examples:
Lord, some people have food and no friends. Some people have friends and no food. We thank you that today we have both. Amen.
Lord, make us not like porridge: sticky and hard to stir. Make us like cornflakes: easy to stir and ready to serve. Amen.
Gracious God, thank you for the stories we share, the friends around us on our screens, the love between us, and Your presence among us. Amen.
Header Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash. The activity listed and prayers are adapted from Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God in Autumn (Church Publishing, 2018).