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A Friar’s Notes
Fr. David Convertino, OFM
Director of Development
A Thanksgiving Story

I hope you are enjoying the autumn season! It can only mean that Thanksgiving Day is almost here, so I’d like to share a beautiful story that captures the essence of gratitude and being thankful.

Samantha and her family are parishioners of our Franciscan church. She invited me and another friar to join her family for Thanksgiving – the first without her husband, who died unexpectedly earlier that year.

We arrived in advance to help her prepare. But she seemed to have everything under control: three 20-pound turkeys; pans of bread and sausage stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole; two large bowls of fresh cranberry sauce, and a half-dozen pumpkin and apple pies. 

Her family sounded like big eaters, just like my Italian family! She also wanted to make sure there were plenty of leftovers to send home with her guests. When people started arriving, I realized other than her young teenage children, none of the people around the table were relatives. They were from the neighborhood – people she knew would be alone, with no one and nowhere to spend Thanksgiving.

It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes when she introduced me to her friends – a homeless woman who sleeps in the park across the street; parents and their three children who live in a migrant hotel around the corner; a taxi driver, whose wife died recently, and his son; a resident of a men’s shelter; an elderly woman from the apartment down the hall, 20 people total, strangers for the most part, from all cultures gathered at this table of gratitude. It reminded me of my childhood Thanksgivings – a home filled with love, laughter, and loud voices shouting over one another!

I thought, how beautiful that Samantha created this “family” gathering for people without one. She kept her late husband’s tradition of going around the table, asking everyone to share what they are thankful for. Samantha didn’t have to express her thanks in words. Her actions took care of that. She thanked God for the food on her table by putting food on her table for others. She thanked God for her beautiful children and the life she had with her husband – even though it was cut short – by inviting the lonely and forgotten into her home. This is the Gospel message that Christ calls us to live!

It’s easy to thank God for the blessings and gifts he provides when all is good in our life. But Samantha showed me how she used the challenges and sorrow of losing her husband to grow closer to God in thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving, the Franciscan Friars invite you to put your words of gratitude into action. We thank you for your generous support of our ministries and care for the poor. Your generosity helps us provide food, clothing, shelter and other basic life necessities on this table of gratitude for our poor, forgotten and marginalized sisters and brothers who come to us for assistance every day. During this season of giving, the friars invite you to remember those who have nothing and no one – just as Samantha did.

When you go around the table this Thanksgiving, try something different. Instead of asking your family and friends to share what they are most thankful for, ask them to share how they will put their gratitude for the blessings and gifts from God into action. That’s what I plan to do when I am having Thanksgiving dinner with the friars.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

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