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 | By Alison Blanchet

Ramen or Riches:

Sharing Our Lives With New Ways to Gather

I attended college in Ohio, about a day’s drive away from my hometown. This meant that I was only able to go home for the big holidays like Christmas and spring break. For Thanksgiving, I was fortunate to be included in the celebrations of families who lived closer to campus. Almost 20 years later, I still think about these weekends with gratitude for being included. I don’t remember much about what we ate, did or even what their homes looked like, just that I was welcomed.

For some, this Thanksgiving and Christmas season will hold a lot of challenges after another difficult year. It can be hard to feel gratitude when we feel overwhelmed by loss or a lot of bad news. While there’s no quick fix, sharing life with others — even when we feel like we don’t have much to share — can help.

Before Hurricane Michael displaced us for several months, I would often fall into the trap of thinking our house was too messy or small to have friends over. Then, after the hurricane, when many were living in campers or in homes with leaking roofs, I realized that my standards needed adjusting. Gathering together, even in less than ideal circumstances, helped our community heal.

Hospitality is hardly a practice that South Carolinians need to be taught. For me, a natural disaster led me to re-imagine how I could welcome others. Now, pandemic habits might have us out of practice or unable to gather with those we normally would. This can be an invitation to re-examine how we can be in community.

Rather than focus on what we aren’t able to do, we can ask ourselves what is possible and, most importantly, who we can welcome. Are there individuals in our lives who are facing a season without loved ones close by? Do we know the names of our neighbors or the person we sit next to at church, and have we asked them how they’re doing?

While inviting everyone into our homes might not be possible, we can find new ways to be welcoming, and creative ways to extend hospitality to those in need.

Making a point to call friends and family, inviting a friend or neighbor for a walk or, as your circumstances allow, extending an invitation to someone who is alone, all are ways that we can undo some of the isolation the pandemic has brought.

My memories from Thanksgiving in my college years didn’t include how clean anyone’s house was or how gourmet their meals were. I was just so grateful to be with others and not in my dorm eating ramen noodles.

As we make our holiday plans, and adjustments as needed, we can grow in gratitude by taking stock of what we can offer others. St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews encourages us, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (13:2). He also tells them, and us, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind” (Heb 13:16).

Sharing our lives with others, whatever that may look like right now, makes us realize just how much we can be grateful.

Alison Blanchet lives in Panama City with her husband and children. Email her at