A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, “Come, everything is now ready.” But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. Luke 14:16-18
In June, my wife Diane and I celebrated our 44nd wedding anniversary. In those 44 years, we have had some interesting holiday gatherings. But, none like the one in Atlanta, Georgia that never happened.
We were young, married only a few years, and seeking out a new adventure in Atlanta. I had just received a job offer to program one of the first talk radio stations in the country, Ring Radio.
I can still remember our drive to Atlanta. We followed each other down I-85, she in her Monte Carlo and me in my Honda Civic. We were young and inexperienced. Diane had never been out of the state of Ohio and our honeymoon was the first time either of us had been out of the country.
In Atlanta, we made friends quickly. Many folks were just like us, northerners who had come to the south for work. All had left families in places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. We had to make friends in our new environment or be alone. So, people were friendly.
Diane and I joined the local Catholic Church, a small gathering of mostly northerners. We met in a small activity center near our home. Our priest was Irish and missionary to the US! It was the mid-1970’s and Vietnam was still fresh in the countries consciousness. I was in the Army Reserves. We had drill weekends in Rome, Georgia as well as summer camps in Wisconsin, Virginia and other posts.
One of our church’s outreaches was to adopt a few South Vietnamese families, who had settled in our area.
Life in Atlanta was going pretty well until we realized that we would not be going home for Thanksgiving. My new job meant that we would be celebrating the holiday away from our family in Ohio. Then, Diane had a great idea!
“I am sure that there are others couples like us. They won’t be making it home to their families this Thanksgiving. Let’s host a big Thanksgiving dinner here.” She reasoned.
“That’s a great idea,” I exclaimed! I could already taste Diane’s great cooking. And so we did.
We invited four other couple to join us and everyone accepted. Diane prepared the menu. We bought a turkey and I even got a holiday ham from my employer, so there would be plenty of food for everyone.
The day before our big feast, one of the couples called to tell us they wouldn’t be making it to the dinner. Her husband was able to get last minute plane tickets and they were going home to Michigan. Well, there were still three couples joining us.
That night as Diane was getting all the ingredients together for our meal and baking when the phone rang. You guessed it, another couple called to cancel. “Boy, there sure is going to be a lot of food for six people,” I said with a little disappointment in my voice.
Thanksgiving morning, the phone rang twice more. Each with the same news that our guests would be spending Thanksgiving somewhere else. We were in shock. All this food and the expectations of the good time we would have, all vanished as I hung up the phone for the final time.
We spent the next hour or so with shared tears and disappointment. What do we do now? What do we do with a turkey, a ham, and all the side dishes and desserts?
Then, Diane had another idea.
“Let’s box it all up and bring it to the Vietnamese families our church had sponsored. They can celebrate our U.S. holiday with their families,” she said choking back tears. “At least someone will be having a family holiday.” And that is what we did.
The look on the faces of the Vietnamese families is difficult to describe. They spoke little English. But, their tearful thank you’s were all we needed to know that we were doing the right thing. Somehow God was directing the entire story.
When we returned to our apartment, we realized that it was late and we still had not eaten. “What do you want on the pizza?” I asked, as I dialed the local pizza shop. “Pepperoni and green peppers” was her reply.
Thirty minutes later we were enjoying our Thanksgiving meal. We were alone, but shared laughter and were glad to be together. It was heartwarming to know that God had used us to deliver a miracle these families.
They will forever remember their first Thanksgiving Day.
***This is an rewrite of a story that originally appeared on November 18, 2012***