Why is this Thanksgiving unlike all other Thanksgivings? Well, for all other Thanksgivings, families gather in large numbers over elaborately prepared turkey dinners. But Thanksgiving 2020 is happening during an unprecedented surge in Covid 19. The careful and the cautious are staying home. Enough traditional gatherings will take place, however, to create millions of superspreader events, unintentionally honoring our maskless—and clueless— outgoing President.
As a student in the U.S. Episcopal Church’s adult-ed program, Education for Ministry, I’ve just read the Gospel of Mark. There, at the end of the third chapter (3:31-35), one encounters Jesus in a house crammed with people waiting to be healed. Suddenly someone tells him his mother and siblings are waiting outside and want him to go out to them. Apparently, word got back to them that Jesus was acting like a crazy man and that they’d better find him and clip his wings. He replies, “Who are my mother, brothers, and sisters?” After looking around he continues, “Here are my mother and my siblings. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”
I don’t know about you, but I always felt as if I’d been adopted into my family. My parents and older sister, my only sibling, were so concerned with money, reputation, and social status. Table talk usually came down to how much so-and-so was worth in dollar terms. I was much more interested in sitting in the kitchen with Florine, our live-in “colored maid,” and listen with her to the Ink Spots or the Mills Brothers, both of whom she referred to as “the Boys.” I also liked it when she hummed hymns or told me about Jesus and the spirit-filled Sunday services at her Black church. Going away at age 11 to a Christian boarding school with compulsory daily chapel, Sunday church, and Bible class just furthered me in the direction I was already headed. By the time I was an undergraduate at Yale, I knew there were two kinds of families, your blood relatives who seemed bent on making you believe what they believed and value what they valued and the family of your heart, or spiritual family, who supported you to go in the direction of your calling. They after all felt called in a similar way. I am grateful to my biological family, who brought me into the world and supported me through prep school and college. But the ones I will eat virtual turkey with this and every Thanksgiving are the family of my heart and soul. What about you?