I spent Thanksgiving here in Miami this year & was able to have an entirely new kind of celebration.
Wednesday night I was able to attend an Interfaith Thanksgiving service at my church, where a number of congregations, from different religious traditions, came together for worship. I was so happy to be a part of it and to have the chance to be thankful for congregations who are seeking to come together in respect and celebration of one another during this time of recognizing thanks. This service was like nothing I had ever been a part of. We had a Native American call to worship, an opening prayer by a local Rabbi, a reading from the Quran on gratitude, as well as songs and messages from various religions and denominations. I loved it. Here is the benediction we shared:
"May an abundance of gratitude burst forth as you reflect upon what you have received. May thanksgiving overflow in your heart, and often be proclaimed in your prayer. May you gather around the table of your heart the ardent faithfulness, kindness, and goodness of each person who is true to you. May the harvest of good actions bring forth plentiful fruit each day. May you discover a cache of hidden wisdom among the people and events that have brought you distress and sorrow. May your basket of blessings surprise you with its rich diversity of gifts and its opportunities for growth. May all that nourishes and resources your life bring you daily satisfaction and renewed hope. May you slow your hurried pace of life so you can be aware of, and enjoy, what you too easily take for granted. May you always be open, willing, and ready to share your blessings with others. May you never forget the Generous One who loves you lavishly."
An organization here in Miami, called South Florida Urban Ministries, holds a Thanksgiving outreach each year that is able to serve over 6,000 families. (Woah, right?) There are a number of locations spread out across the area where people from all over South Florida come to help prepare & deliver meals to families who may not otherwise be able to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner together. I was in awe of how many people came out to help on Thursday morning (and I only saw one of the sites!). There were so many people, that I ended up coloring cards alongside an elderly couple for them to deliver to the families on their list. I think it’s a pretty great problem to have when there are too many people wanting to serve. It was inspiring to me to see that so many wanted to give their time on this day to recognize their ability to serve, and to place their focus on creating opportunities for others to be thankful as well.
Thursday afternoon & evening were spent preparing and partaking in our campus ministry’s international student Thanksgiving celebration. FIU is an international university, so we have a number of students associated with us that were away from family during this break & some who also were able to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. We set up the backyard of one of our Wesley houses with a long line of tables and chairs, hung lights all around the house & tree, and finished preparing all of the food. I had about forty people to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year. Gosh. Friends from Nepal, Saudi Arabia, China, Argentina, India, Japan, Brazil, Ecuador, Libya, Venezuela, Ghana, South Korea, Nigeria, and more. Along with our traditional Thanksgiving foods, we also were able to share Arabic coffee & dates, Indian samosas along with mint rice with curry sauce, and Argentinean empanadas that were shared by our friends. We ate, talked, gathered around the fire in the backyard, and even did some dancing! (Introduced the wobble & Cleveland Shuffle to the group, and it was quite an enjoyable time. I know I loved it!)
Never have I had a Thanksgiving like this one. I continue to be so thankful for the new experiences and new friends that Miami is able to provide. I missed being with my family on this day, but am so glad to have been able to spend the holiday having new experiences, meeting new friends, sharing in new cultures & traditions, and embracing one another as family when ours were far away. I am genuinely thankful for this Thanksgiving and all that came along with it. I hope you were as well!