As some of you may have guessed, my previous bad poem “Orphan at Your Table“, was a fictionalized account of my experiences as an orphan taken in by various people for Thanksgiving dinner. My parents died when I was a young teen and neither of them had a lot of family left. I was quite in demand as an orphan to invite for Thanksgiving for many years. While many of the people were well-meaning in their attempts to include me, some of them were indeed mostly looking to show off what great people they were by having a semi-homeless waif over for a holiday. I was in foster care and reasonably well-cared for, so nobody imagine that I was living on the streets!
If you do want to invite someone over for the holidays because they are an orphan or living far from home or recently divorced or whatever other thing has washed them up on the shores of “alone for a major US holiday”, I have a few suggestions to make it nicer for them.
- Treat them like they belong with you. Most of us don’t like to be fussed over and treated like an exotic creature. Let them blend in with your family traditions as much as possible.
- Keep the well-meaning sympathy on the back burner. Maybe they want to talk about their deceased loved ones, ex-spouse, or far away home. Maybe they don’t. Be open to the possibility, but let them initiate this. It could be that they would prefer a distraction over a sympathetic ear.
- Tell other regular attendees in advance that you have invited this person. You might be amazed at the alarm, suspicion, and discomfort springing a surprise orphan on your extended nearest and dearest can cause.
- Don’t introduce them as “the orphan” and supply a lot of backstory. “This is Jane. We work together.” or whatever is the case for the acquaintance will go a long way to making your orphan feel more comfortable.
- Understand if they refuse the invitation, it’s not you. It’s us. Sometimes we really are more comfortable in the diner with a good buck.
I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving, and bless your kind hearts if you’re taking in random guests, orphans or not!