Giving Thanks for Inclusion

Family is where the heart finds its home. There are no rules, no box that defines who can or cannot be your family. Families come in all forms. I feel extremely blessed tonight to have been invited to Thanksgiving dinner with a tight-knit group of kind-hearted humans that happen to be blood-related to each other (and not me).

Please excuse the long-winded explanation of how we all connect. My husband’s paternal uncle’s husband, Jerry, traditionally celebrates Thanksgiving the weekend prior with his mother, sister and brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, their spouses and children, and their children’s children. I had the opportunity to meet all these people two years ago when we were asked to photograph Jerry’s mother’s 80th birthday party. Even then, meeting them all for the first time, I was welcomed with an authentic warmth I have rarely experienced from strangers.

I felt honored when Jerry asked my husband and I to join them for their family Thanksgiving. I had no idea when we accepted that we were going to be two of twenty-three guests. (The most I’ve ever hosted for is about 10.)

Earlier today, Jerry’s brother-in-law, Manuel, was kind enough to help us transport baseboard moulding from Home Depot. He had arrived early with his family to help set up and coincidentally drove a big truck. What seemed like a big request, to me, was graciously agreed to with genuine kindness. The errand took much longer than expected and still it was met with patience and ease.

When we arrived at the party with our baked brie contribution, we were greeted with hearty hugs, cheek kisses and kind smiles…even from those we hadn’t met yet. Even though we were the outsiders crashing the party, every single person treated us like we’d been there for the past thirty-eight Thanksgivings. There was laughter at friendly chiding, a baby being passed around for snuggles, impromptu singing, and overall jovial camaraderie. The love in the room was visceral.

While I haven’t known these people long, nor interacted with them more than a few times over the past two years, I feel instantly comfortable with each one. They are genuinely kind and open hearted. How blessed am I to be in such good company and included in such a wonderful evening?!

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