“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays … For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.”

True for everyone?

November brings a chill — to the air and to the hearts of family members who will show up at Thanksgiving tables and won’t receive sunshine or a friendly gaze.

Maybe that family member is you. Maybe you are on the other side of the table.

Sometimes home is sweet and sour both. Kids who don’t live up to parents’ expectations. Parents who live in two houses, now, instead of one. Old, unsalved wounds from cutting words or hurtful deeds that still feel fresh.

What to do? Understand that the things most important to us yield both the most joy and pain.

Family tops the list. Family can be a greenhouse for personalities to blossom and spirits to soar or a hothouse where bitterness takes root and fungi flourish.

Many families have a hard time balancing unconditional love and high expectations. Both are important. If you are loved unconditionally yet never learn at home that you have gifts that must be honored and honed, you will disappoint all your life. If you learn at home that you must achieve in order to be blessed and accepted by those closest to you, you will struggle with an unstable self all your life.

Forgiveness is the bridge that allows reconciliation of these two. Ideally, the traffic moves both ways, each party meeting in the middle. Realistically, you will sometimes feel as if you are walking all the way to the other side to drag your loved one home.

Robert Frost wrote a poem called “The Death of the Hired Man.” A farmer and his wife argue over what to do with an old hand named Silas who has shown up on their front porch. Warren is still bitter that Silas left him long ago “to better himself.” Silas is world-weary, now, and sick. He sits on the porch waiting to see if he will be welcomed back.

Mary: “He’s come home to die.”

Warren: “Home?”

“Yes, what else but home,” Mary says. “Home is the place where, when you have to go there/ They have to take you in. I should have called it/ Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

Is there room at your table this Thanksgiving — in your heart — for someone who shouldn’t have to deserve your love and welcome?


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