One of the traditional practices at Thanksgiving is to go around the table and let each answer the question, "What are you thankful for?" The responses are varied in depth and content, depending on each person and what or how much they wish to share.
But one thing is evident in this practice: Each of us has a story.
Here's a video that illustrates my point. Please take time to watch it before reading the rest of my post.
Everyone has a story, of what they are thankful for as well as what they are struggling with; what they celebrate and what they grieve or regret; their triumphs as well as their trials. Each person represents a story of life unfolding.
Perhaps this is one of the keys in responding to Jesus' charge to us to "welcome the the stranger" (Matthew 25:35). There is a lot of conversation now around welcoming of refugees. There is an ongoing conversation in our churches around what it means to be truly welcoming of all. Perhaps we need to realize that each person has a story. We need to look beyond the labels we've assigned to people. We need to look beyond our seeming differences. We need to realize that just like us, other people have their own stories, too! And perhaps their coming to us: to our doors, our tables and our borders, are God's way of calling us to listen to their stories and to see them the way God sees them.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and as we go around the table, may we listen deeply, realizing that each one of us has a story. May that knowledge push us to a fresh appreciation of each one. May it push us to treat each other with grace, compassion and genuine love. May it also spur us to open our doors and our tables to the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee, the other who is different from us, for they, too, have their own stories to tell and to share.