A Thanksgiving Miracle

Every Thanksgiving I feel the opposite of thankful. I feel grouchy and resentful of all that I have to do to make the holiday feel meaningful for my kids. I just want to sit by the fire, drink coffee and read books like a proper curmudgeon. And every Thanksgiving God shows up with something to remind me that I’m being petty.

A Brave Student

This year, as I waded through the utter madness that is Trader Joe’s the week of Thanksgiving, I saw three Chinese students with nothing but a turkey and 3 bottles of wine in their shopping cart. They were talking among themselves and looking things up on their phones, clearly trying to figure out what else they were supposed to buy to have this strange yet venerated American meal. One of them said something to the other two, and then they started scanning the store together.
They were looking from face-to-face of the people in the produce section. After a few minutes, all three gestured to a woman in her 70s near the prepackaged salads. The bravest of the three approached her and said in his best English, “I do not know how to make mash potatoes. Can you teach me?” It was clear they had chosen her because they wanted the oldest woman in the store, the one who had made the most Thanksgiving dinners. They respected her expertise.

In this overcrowded Trader Joe’s, between two COVID-19 masks, a miracle occurred. The older woman’s eyes wrinkled and she said, “sure. First, you gotta get the right kind of potatoes …”. She proceeded to lead these three young men through the whole store, filling their cart with everything they would need to make a Thanksgiving dinner, and asking about their lives at the University of Virginia.

A kind woman

She explained that mashed potatoes need a lot of butter, and sometimes some sour cream to make them taste right, but that she’s developed a dairy allergy and now uses margarine instead. She explained pumpkin pie and stuffing and cranberry sauce. She spent over an hour with them, completely forgetting about her own shopping basket.

I’m a better person for having witnessed it. I am thankful for those three brave students for asking someone they don’t know in an uncertain language for help. I’m thankful for the woman who poured out kindness and hospitality. I’m thankful that some of us still remember how to be human, even as we still trudge through what I hope is the tail end of this lonely pandemic.

Happy Thanksgiving. May we all be a little more hospitable, humble, and human.