It's been 7 weeks since I left Kodiak. I write this now on the road, in the midst of a bonzai from Ohio to Atlanta where dear friends we haven’t seen in a long time have opened their doors to us. We are thrilled to give thanks together this week. (Yes! Thank you that we’re not eating alone in a restaurant!)
But one of the best Thanksgiving feasts I ever had was in a restaurant just a few years ago. I need to remember this now.
The restaurant was tiny, just one room, with sparse wooden chairs and tables. My new friend Ben brought out one more dish to my table, and the two of us sat there with the Sea of Galilee sunlit beside us. We were the only ones there. He had prepared Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. Cumin taunted my nose. Fresh flatbread and tahini, a carrot salad, a dish of various olives, pickled fish, and espresso completed the spread. We were about to start eating when a white-haired man in wild pajama pants sailed through the door.
“David!” Ben shouted. “You are just in time for our feast. Come, sit down.” In five minutes I learned that David was a man of great enthusiasm who cursed as often as he laughed and both were done at high volume. I loved his love of life. Now we were three. We ate and talked and laughed. A half-hour later, another man and his dog entered to the delight of both men: “Aaron!” They shouted, and somehow we made space for one more plate, one more chair.
The four of us, a middle-aged woman from Alaska and three Israeli men, ate the same way we talked: hungrily and eagerly. As we piled the food on our plates, creating a riot of deep colors and flavors, we discussed food, our families, politics and God.
I sat in wonderment. I stumbled through these doors two hours ago, sweat-drenched and weary from hours of hiking and longing for a cold can of Coke. I had been hiking alone for days. It was not long before Ben was serving me coffee from his new espresso machine and telling me I was staying for lunch.
The day before I went out on a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Just before I left, the crew presented me with a gift: five fish, the biggest ones of the day, carefully laid out on the deck before me. I protested.
“Thank you, but I can’t take these. I’ve got five miles left to hike tonight.”
“Oh no, these are good fish. You must take them!”
“What will I do with them?”
“You just take them and give them to whoever you are staying with. They’ll cook them for you.”
I was about to remonstrate again, and suddenly, I got it. “Thank you! I’d love these fish,” and in the next minute they were wrapped carefully in newspaper and handed to me.
The rest of that day, I carried five fish in my backpack, thinking of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. That evening, weary from the long day, I arrived at the Golan Heights, where I had arranged to stay at a bed and breakfast.that night the hosts invited me to their son’s home for Hanukkah. Another feast around the table of others I did not know.
While I was there, Ezra drove me around his orange groves, showing off the fruit that had just turned ripe. I ate four whole oranges before we were done. As I prepared to leave, he filled a bag with 10 pounds of fruit and handed it over to me. I
At home, on a typical Thanksgiving, my house is full. The turkey is huge, the table long and wide. But that particular year, I was the stranger, and they invited me in. I was hungry, and they fed me shakshuka and oranges. I was thirsty, and they gave me espresso and Diet Coke. And as I left, they gave me fish and grapefruit for the road, though I had nothing to give in return.
This year, we are road-weary and stressed. We have had near-misses, high winds have blown us all over the highway, our home is a box on wheels, the bed is hard, and we have nothing to give back but we have been invited in.
We often ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” And He does. Our cupboards are full. Our tables are heaping. So much so that I often feel guilty for all I have. But the pure generosity given in Israel---and soon in Georgia---reminds me that there are hungry people walking and driving by our doors every day. And the hungers we carry most are not just for food but the need to be seen, to be known.
God answers our hungers and our prayers for daily bread not just for our own needs and appetites, but for others as well. We can be the answer to their prayers, even those who don’t yet know how to ask. I know this because our friends this year are the answer to our prayers . . .
So put the extra leaf in your table, go to the door of the cranky lonely man down the road, invite the woman and her children whose husband just left them, ask the whole row of widows in your church to come over. Tell them you’re having a party and it won’t be fun without them.
Do especially this week what we've been charged to do our lifelong lives:
Feed my sheep.!
And have a blast while you're at it!
Have you ever been the stranger who was invited in? Could you tell us about that??
So thankful for every one of you,