A wise friend once told me the story about what came to be known as her “not-so-traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. She used that story to teach me something about my expectations of people. It made sense then, but the older I get, the more it makes sense. And, I’m guessing the older I get, the more sense it will continue to make. This week, I was reminded of her story – so I thought it was worthy of telling.
My friend’s son and daughter-in-law lived a few hours away, and for many, many years, she and her husband were not invited to Thanksgiving dinner at their home. They were always disappointed, but had, over those years, created their own tradition of having a small dinner together – just the two of them, watching some football, and enjoying the day at home alone.
One year, however, they received their first invitation. They were beyond excited, even to throw their own traditions to the wayside, just to be able to have a family holiday dinner together, and enjoy it with their grandchildren and everyone around the table. They were told to come at 6 p.m., so they timed their early lunch just right, and their three-hour drive precisely, listening to Christmas carols the entire way. When they pulled up in the driveway just a few minutes before 6 p.m., there were a few cars at the house already. They were so excited! A great big Thanksgiving dinner with all of the family! Finally!
They rang the doorbell, but as they entered the home, my friend’s daughter-in-law and her children were saying goodbye to her parents, and the couples passed each other on their ways in and out of the home, holiday greetings and hugs in the foyer. Their son was removing the leaf from the dining room table. The dishwasher was already running. That great big family Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all of the fixin’s had ended. They were terribly confused.
Well, to shorten the story… It turned out that my friends were invited for soup and leftover pie. The turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce had all been put away already. The table was cleaned off and reset for two. Thanksgiving dinner was chicken noodle soup, with leftover pie for dessert.
My friend cried all the way home. The next year, they returned for soup again – the “second shift dinner” they called it. Every year – year after year my friend was hurt and disappointed, until one year she said God finally changed her heart, and do you know what happened? She realized that her daughter-in-law made incredibly good chicken noodle soup, and she began looking forward to that soup, at that kitchen table, with that daughter-in-law and that son every single year. In fact, she said it became one of her favorite traditions and times with her family.
My friend told me this story at a time when I felt hurt by someone who I had genuinely believed was a lot closer of a friend than she really was. And that didn’t mean they were not my friend – it just meant that the relationship was different to me, than it was to them. It didn’t make it less valuable – it just meant it was different. She said it was important to recognize that, and to appreciate it for what it was, as well as that friend for who they really were in my life, instead of expecting them to be who they were not.
“Sometimes,” she said, “you just gotta eat the soup. And, when you stop expecting the soup to taste like turkey, you’ll be able to enjoy it for just what it really is.”
And in case you’re wondering – I’m still waiting on that recipe 🙂
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9
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