I had originally planned to spend Thanksgiving 2014 alone.

I was reflecting on that this past Saturday night when I was at The Greene Turtle in Westminster with some of my best friends — Adam, Ian, Kate (also Ian’s fiancee) and Wayne. These are some of the people I grew up with locally, and they’re all good-hearted, hard-working individuals. We now live some distance apart as our lives have taken different paths. But this past weekend, we all happened to be around — the first time in almost a year. It’s the sort of thing that happens as you get older, as I know you know.


And each year, we are reminded around Thanksgiving that grace and appreciation should not be celebrated just once, but that thankfulness is something that should be practiced constantly. I agree with this with all my heart. Every day really is a gift in a life where nothing is certain or guaranteed. We are the sum of our free will and our choices, and our encounters with others create constellations that we call communities, that we call home. To live in a country where we have those chances each day, to determine how so many of the stars of our lives will be ordered, is both a blessing from God and the result of our personal endeavor.

Thanksgiving is a day that is specially noted for giving us that opportunity to be grateful, but also grants us the foundation from which to grow and act, whether it is to make sure others have food on their tables, warm clothes through the winter, a place to call home; to grow from our own mistakes, failures and missteps; or to take action for those who are in need so we can make our country — and our world — a better place. Thanksgiving is also a matter of time. It allows you to be grateful for what you have in the moment because next year, only God knows what new roads you’ll take. As I noted earlier, I anticipated spending Thanksgiving 2014 alone (except for the company of my wonderful dog, Frankie).

As it happened that year, I was single, and each member of my family had different plans. As a result, I figured a simple dinner and a movie were a perfect combination for that evening.

But a few days before that, I got a call from Kate. Still relatively early in their relationship, Kate was going home to be with her family while Ian could not go home because his own parents were sick. Ian was worried he would have to spend Thanksgiving alone, and that I might already have plans — so he had Kate call me to ask what I was up to. (That’s how we men operate sometimes: we don’t directly ask each other such things.) So we decided that Ian should come and spend the week at my house, instead. Ian arrived soon after, along with his clothes, video games and the idea that we might as well do an actual dinner. Thanksgiving was worth celebrating in full, he explained — and he was right.

The day before, as we began trying to figure out how to cook a turkey, we got a call from Adam. Adam wanted to know what we were doing the following day, as each member of his family would be working and would not be having their dinner until the weekend. Immediately, we decided that Adam should also join us. Adam explained that he would not only help to make dinner, but would tell us what we were doing wrong. You can’t pass up that kind of critique.

So Thanksgiving Day rolled around, Adam arrived, and cooking commenced. Between football games, watching “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Frankie keeping his eyes on the turkey in the oven, and Ian complaining about Christmas commercials being on too early, we made an incredible day out of one each of us would have otherwise been spending alone. When we prayed before dinner that night, that was one of the things we thanked God for.

But our day was not over just yet. After dinner, we got a call from Ian’s older brother Craig, who wanted to know if his parents were trying to kill him by forgetting to tell him they were sick and that he should not come over. Craig, after having an early dinner with his girlfriend, had nowhere to go — and so we invited him over. When he arrived, Craig told us about his day and gave us the sage advice that, “When a woman gives you a plateful of cut-up turkey, that’s real love.”

We all agreed.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are not only about being thankful for all you have in your life, but are about being thankful for love as well. Love is the greatest possible act of human free will. Love can inspire, compel, motivate and encourage. It can cause you to make sacrifices, to be courageous, to be humble, to be kind, to understand others, and to reach out to them and include them in your own life. Thanksgiving and the holidays are a reminder that if you are alone, be the cause to bring others to you. And on the other hand, if we know someone who will be alone, we must take that step to reach out to them to ensure they know they are loved, wanted and needed. And this, like being thankful, should be practiced constantly.

So Saturday night, sitting at The Greene Turtle with Wayne, Ian, Kate and Adam, I made sure they knew how thankful I was to be with them and to have them in my life. It doesn’t matter when or where you tell someone these things. It only matters that you tell them. Maybe you’re reading this while you’re eating or taking a break running around between stores on Black Friday. Maybe you’re home spending time with loved ones, or still cleaning up from Thanksgiving. Maybe you weren’t with loved ones this year. But that’s no reason not to call or to tell the person beside you that he or she matters.

It matters all the more. It matters right now.