Holidays are like massive snowstorms: They don’t happen everyday but, when they do, everyone is both a little shell-shocked from all the swirling activity, yet ready to band with others in a show of camaraderie and goodwill. It’s a great time to step outside yourself, and do something you wouldn’t do any other time- like invite a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner. Here are five reasons why this is a good idea:
- Kindness: Here’s the obvious one, even if it bears repeating. Inviting someone into your home is a nice thing to do, regardless of the circumstances. This holiday is not about gifts, football, fireworks, costumes, or parades - but simple human connection and a meal with other people.
- A Welcome Family Buffer: If the warm fuzzies aren’t enough of a reason, consider this: What family is going to break out into its yearly argument about politics when there is an unfamiliar presence at the table? Aunt Agnes might limit her whiskey to just two glasses, and the kids will be on their best behavior. In short, it might just be the most civil, calm family dinner you’ve had in years.
- Broaden Your Social Circle: If you’ve been meaning to get to know Shirley from Accounting a little bit better, and overheard that she’s not going home for the holiday, it’s a perfect time to put yourself out there and initiate a relationship — platonic or otherwise. Make something happen that could turn out mutually beneficial to both of you.
- Model Behavior: If you’re looking for a good teaching moment, the holiday meal is a prime opportunity. Your kids (hell, even your curmudgeonly parents) can see what it feels like to offer your home to others during special occasions.
- Stave Off Your Own Loneliness: You yourself might need a little company if you don’t plan to head to a family member or friend’s home. Gather together a bunch of other people and make an event of it. It might beat eating a single Cornish game hen on a tray in front of the television. If you are worried about all the work, go potluck as much as possible.
And hey, after you’ve done it once, maybe you’ll get addicted to the gesture and make it a recurring event throughout the year.
And, because I know someone will mention this: use caution, of course. It might not be the safest idea to invite any ol' someone just off the street (even if those folks might be the ones most in need of a good meal and company). Consider checking in with your local church or social service organization for an introduction to someone without anywhere else to go, or reach out to known neighbors or students in the area. It’s up to you to figure out an acceptable level of risk for you and your family.
Have you ever opened up your home to strangers during Thanksgiving dinner?