The Empty Chair – Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving 2020. I have to inhale. Pause. Exhale.  
So much to be grateful for.  
So much to grieve.  
This year as my kids gather, I have a deeper, more profound sense of gratitude than ever before that we and our loved ones are healthy and, frankly, alive.  But also more than ever before, I have a profound sense of sadness. I am sad about my beloved extended family that isn’t gathering this year. And I’m deeply sad for the huge number of people who have lost loved ones this year. COVID-19, racism, and suicide are foremost in my mind. All those people loved their peeps as much as I love my mine. So how, as parents, do we “do” Thanksgiving with our kids this year? I want to celebrate and be thankful. But to me, to only “celebrate and be thankful” seems a bit superficial in 2020. 
Here’s my plan for celebrating AND honoring on Thursday:
When my kids set the table, I’m going to ask them to set an empty chair. I’ll explain that the empty chair represents two things: 
 The empty chairs at so many people’s tables all over the planetare due to loss of a loved one. 
As we start our feast with the tradition of “gratefuls,” we’ll have a moment of silence to acknowledge the grief of losing someone. We’ll reflect on our family’s own personal losses and  honor the families in our broader community who have suffered and/or lost loved ones this year.
 Those individuals whose worldview is not represented at our table.
 We will each write (on sticky notes) a group of people who are not included at our table. Some examples are in the list below. We’ll all put our sticky notes on the empty chair to remember that because those people are not at our table, we are not hearing their perspectives, views, thoughts. I hope to chat about what might be added to our lives if we knew and could hear from, up close and personal, a broader swath of the humans with whom we share this town, this country, this planet. Fingers crossed that I can get my crew to engage in a meaningful conversation! 
 The empty chair can represent any of the following who have lost lives and whose voices are not being heard at our table: 
 COVID familiesEssential workersMilitary familiesBIPOC familiesLGBTQIA familiesDisconnected family membersFamilies that we might judge or belittleFamilies who’ve lost loved ones to suicideDifferently-abled familiesOne last idea is to let the “guest” in our empty chair have an opinion. My peeps tend to be pretty respectful, but if they say something that clumps others into stereotypes or seems disparaging, I plan to turn to the empty chair and ask, “How does it feel to hear that?” 
 That’s my plan. How about you? Are you considering any modifications to your usual Thanksgiving?
 
 Happy Thanksgiving, 
 
P.S. Last holiday season, I shared a song called “At This Table” about everyone being counted and seen and heard. If you missed it, here is the link.
 
P.P.S. I’m so excited to be only days away from having my first “tiny book” available on Amazon. This is a book I worked on when my three boys were little and I was working hard to keep my sanity intact. While they were growing, I was too busy raising them to push the book across the finish line. But now, with the help of my sweet hubs, it’s done. Imperfect, but done. You’ll be the first to know when it’s officially available.
 

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