No Thanksgiving Invite? Does Anyone Know?

Thanksgiving: English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

For many people, Thanksgiving can be fraught with uncomfortable memories.

The holiday may be filled with loneliness more than familial happiness.

Pressure can mount for a great meal or conviviality. It could underscore what’s missing in your life. Thanksgiving can be downright depressing.

One Thanksgiving long ago was headed toward the miserable. My husband was out to sea and the toddlers and I had nowhere to go.

My Navy wife pals–my natural tribe–had gone home weeks before and that left the three of us on our own in Connecticut.

My Italian family–for whom Thanksgiving is a big family reunion because they never say no to a lonely friend or ex-relative–was indignant. “Come home.”

California was a long expensive trip away, besides the USS Skipjack was due home a week after Thanksgiving. No way.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, however, self-pity got the best of me and I wondered, “Why doesn’t anyone invite us over for Thanksgiving dinner?”

English: Photo showing some of the aspects of ...

Then it dawned on me. No one in my other tribe– Bishop Seabury Episcopal Church— knew we didn’t have a place to go.

I volunteered in the nursery that Sunday, but before I signed in, I swallowed my pride and asked the pastor if he would mind making an announcement: “Sea widow and children in need of a Thanksgiving dinner.”

“No one has invited you?” He looked around. “Where’s my wife?”

I laughed. “Let’s see if anyone else at church has room for us first.”

Four sets of hands went up in the congregation when he made the appeal, he said. “I told them whoever gets to you first can have you over for dinner.”

A sweet couple I barely knew invited us. I felt weak with gratitude and blinked back tears.

Thanksgiving morning the kids and I drove through empty streets to a rural Rhode Island home carrying a bottle of California wine and the most elaborate dessert I could create. The couple’s children played with my little boys–ages two and four that year–and I shared stories with the couple and a visiting grandparent. The food was delicious and while I still felt homesick, it didn’t stab as sharp.

Thanksgiving turkeyWe even got to take home leftovers.  🙂

My husband’s family shook their head when they heard the story. My mother-in-law often invited stray sailors from the Long Beach Navy base for holiday meals. They always had extra people around their Thanksgiving dinner table.

I learned a lesson about pride that Thanksgiving. I could have stayed quiet and sulked, wondered about my popularity and served grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a feast.

Instead, I chose to believe the best of the people I worshipped with–that they would reach out in love to help.

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They did.

When my husband spent Christmas under the water on his submarine the following year, I took the initiative early and invited the boat wives to dinner at our house. Two women and two children came. I didn’t know them before the day, but I knew them well by the end.

Sometimes a need isn’t fulfilled because it isn’t known.

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I try to remember that every year.

If you haven’t gotten an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner, ask yourself if anyone knows you need one. You’d be surprised how many people would be happy to invite you–at least at my church!

What’s the best Thanksgiving you ever had? The worst?

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Leave a comment


  1. What a wonderful story! And how great that you pay the kindness forward!

    I try to forget the awful holidays. The best Thanksgiving is coming next Thursday!

    • Michelle Ule

       /  November 22, 2013

      It was a good lesson and an opportunity for the body of Christ to respond to a need they had overlooked. Win-win all around!
      And happy Thanksgiving to you, your wife and your dogs! 🙂

  2. Thank you. As a single person I often get frustrated that people don’t invite me to join in their holiday celebrations, whether it be Thanksgiving or Easter. Then I realize that most people probably assume I spend it with my family who live within a couple hours. However, that is not the case. My parents have not had a family Thanksgiving or Easter in years. I usually do not have a place to celebrate until a few days before, matter of fact I have no place to go this year…though I am sure something will come up.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  November 23, 2013

      Ah, Lisa, if only you lived near my Italian relatives! Thanks for expressing a thought that’s important for all of us to remember. A blessed holiday to you.

  3. One of our best Christmases was when we invited a new-to-our-church couple & their baby to join us (hubby, me, our 2 young daughters, & mother-in-law) for dinner. They were new to the area, with no family nearby. It was a very fun afternoon, & we were all blessed.

  4. I’ve been inviting my neighbor for some time. He is a widower, no kids. Now I’ve got my nephew and wife coming. His family is scattered. It makes a better day to share with others.


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