Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

A summer photo of the flock of turkeys that wander through our yard twice each day.  Too beautiful to eat for Thanksgiving, we've officially "pardoned" them. :)

For a few years my parents lived in a college town.  While there, they took part in an organization called "Worldwide Friends."  The organization provides a voluntary pairing of the university and community,  where participating international students are "paired" with individuals or families in the community.  The international students don't live with the community members, but are invited to the community member's home for occasional dinners, or out to social events, etc. It's a great way for  the many, many, international students to experience a bit of American life outside of the dorms and university. For the community members,  getting to know these students provides an invaluable "window to the outside world" on different cultures and customs.

Over the time that my parents were a part of Worldwide Friends,  countless students were "paired" with our family,  from countries literally ALL around the globe. My mom is a particularly fine cook and LOVES to feed a crowd,  so the students who were paired with our family really lucked out!!! The students were always encouraged to bring extra friends with them to dinners we hosted. Word got out  about mom's delicious food,  so the crowds seemed to get larger every year.  Walking into a home with the smells of freshly made bread,  a roasted turkey, etc may have been foreign to some, but an expertly and lovingly home-cooked meal in an accepting and comfortable home,  no matter where on the globe, was a welcomed change from dorm food and college living for a day.

 Some of the most memorable dinners with the international students were at Thanksgiving. The extensions to the dining room table were added, along with extra chairs, and on occasion extra folding tables were necessary to accommodate all of the guests. Forks and knives sat next to chopsticks at each place setting to make sure that every guest felt at ease dining.  Menus usually featured a huge roasted turkey,  fresh bread, homemade dumplings, veggies, pies,  and even "Sandy's World Famous Apple Pie," a title given to mom's apple cake by one very appreciative student. The over-the-top title made my mom feel so special that it was sure to be on the menu whenever the student was there--ingenious student! :)  Mom and Dad loved to feed the hungry guests and the students in turn always did their best to appreciatively consume astounding amounts of food.  Looking around the table crowded with young adults from places literally spanning the the globe, we sometimes joked that it was like a model United Nations meeting--all colors, creeds, and backgrounds coming together for a shared meal, lively conversation, and goodwill.

Most of the students coming to an American Thanksgiving meal for the first time didn't quite know what the holiday was about.  The first year some of the international students brought gifts, understandably misinterpreting the "giving" that makes up part of the word "Thanksgiving."  We began informing the students beforehand that this is a secular holiday and gift-giving exchanges aren't a part of  Thanksgiving. This likely relieved some of the students who were unsure of what to expect, for those who subsisted on very limited budgets, or for those who might have fretted over what to give as a gift.  Instead,  we wanted the students to realize that they themselves were always the gift,  something no amount of money could buy. We shared with them that Thanksgiving is a holiday where families and friends come together,  often traveling great distances to be together.  The purpose of the holiday was to give thanks and have gratitude for that which means the most to us. As a family we were thankful to get to know our new friends and to be able to share a meal with them.

This year,  and every day of every year,  I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family,  full of the very most loving, accepting, supportive, interesting, and FUN people in the world.  I also have the most wonderful husband, whom I love dearly, and we are fortunate to live comfortably and peacefully with a secure roof over our heads and plentiful food at all times. I have fantastic friends with whom I can rely on in good times and bad, share meaningful experiences, adventures and great meals together. I'm also lucky that some of my best friends are also colleagues with whom I get to collaborate with,  to challenge and inspire one another daily with honestly and sincerity. For all of this,  I have profound gratitude.

This year I'm also thankful for YOU, dear reader.  I've been fortunate to have readers from over 40 countries in the last month alone! That alone has absolutely amazed and humbled me. I'm thankful to share my thoughts with you and hope you find them helpful to your musicianship, learning and teaching. The opportunity to share some of my sabbatical ideas in the form of blog posts has helped me connect with you and given me hope that my writing has interest and relevance to my profession.

The daily news reports remind me that our world is far from perfect.  But if we can realize, value and celebrate our shared humanity, respect and honor our differences, and act with integrity from these principles, then there is certainly a lot to be thankful for.

Oboe and out,

The Oboist

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