Thanksgiving is only a week away. Have you looked around to see if someone needs to be invited to share the holiday with you? Let me explain why.
Pensacola is a military town. We have many who are miles away from home. So, inviting a young military person to join in for a holiday is common. But, this sailor visit to a family Thanksgiving was very unusual.
I knew a Navy Lieutenant. After the Thanksgiving holiday, I asked him if he, his wife and two young children had had a nice holiday. His answer surprised me.
This Navy family attended the base chapel church services. One Sunday, while he was out of town on Navy business, his wife and kids went to church without him. It was during the worship service that his wife noticed an older man who was also worshiping alone; she approached him during the point in the service when attendees were encouraged to greet one another and asked about his plans for Thanksgiving. He quietly explained that their family had been blessed with a new granddaughter and that his wife was with their daughter and son-in-law helping them adjust to living with a newborn. Unfortunately, Navy duties required that the man remain in Pensacola and he planned to have a quiet dinner, at home, alone.
The Navy wife did what Navy wives do: she invited this “geographic bachelor” to Thanksgiving dinner at their home. When she explained to her spouse that they would be having a guest at the table, her husband was shocked. You see, the older gentleman was an active duty Vice Admiral. He was far above her husband in the chain of command and the Lieutenant was worried that his wife had breached some standard of protocol and that their humble dinner would not be a grand enough dinner for the Boss. The wife replied that all would be fine; she was not worried. By the way, the Admiral would be bringing the pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving Day arrived and at the appropriate hour, there was a knock on their door. Their apartment was nice, but not very large. As the Lieutenant greeted the Admiral at the door, there were two minor emergencies: one in the kitchen involving meal preparation and the other had to do with their four-month old son. The Lieutenant explained and hurried away. Both emergencies took longer than expected and so it was about 15 minutes before the Lieutenant made it back to the living room. The scene surprised him. The Admiral and the family’s three-year-old daughter were sitting on the floor, playing with dolls. The Admiral looked up and asked if there was something that they needed for him to do. When the Lieutenant replied, “no, we’re fine,” the Admiral smiled and the two went back to playing.
Dinner was ready an hour after the Admiral had arrived; he and the daughter had spent the entire time playing with her dolls. The turkey was great and the two side dishes were wonderful. When it was time to serve the pie, the baby began to fuss. The Admiral asked if he might hold the child and the couple said “of course.” And, the gentleman enjoyed dessert, gentling rocking the boy as they shared stories of Thanksgiving passed.
The couple refused his offer to help with the dishes and the Admiral gathered up his things, preparing to go. Before leaving, he took the wife’s hands into his and spent a couple of moments explaining how precious the day was for him. Although he could not hold his new granddaughter on that day, he had held their son. And, his time with their daughter had taught him many things about dolls; knowledge that would come in handy as his granddaughter grew older. After a quick hug of the wife and daughter and a hearty handshake with the Lieutenant, the Admiral was gone.
It is not just the young who need a friend. Sometimes those who inspire us need an invitation too.
“Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” (3 John 1:8)