THE GATHERING TABLE
By: Cindy Anne Duncan
Columnist

Call it a clan, call it a network. Call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it,
Whoever you are, you need one”_ Jane Howard

Prior to 1863 Thanksgiving was irregularly celebrated, with each states governor fixing the date the holiday was to occur. President Abraham Lincoln issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in the United States in the year 1863, setting the last Thursday in November as a National holiday.
In 1844 Lydia Maria Child, wrote the poem” A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day” which in 1863 she wrote into song which came to be a popular ode to the holiday’s known as “Over The River and Through the Woods”
To Grandmother’s house we go! Many of us return to grandmother’s home for the holiday, many of us are the grandmothers today. Some families are separated by distance, others by estrangement and obligation. Your family may have changed drastically are none at all? What hasn’t changed is our need for close ties to those who call us their own. Family, friends, care takers, community, soup kitchens, church halls. We are family one in all.
The smells of the season are wonderful and rich, turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, cranberry sauce in pretty dishes. The welcoming fragrance of the harvest of fruit in warm pies, their aroma calls us to the gathering place. This is the feeling of comfort, peace, the knowing all is well, when the world around us would tell us different. Within this home, this hall, this church, the place where we gather love abounds and all are welcome. Tradition is honored and new ones are made. These I know are cherished moments in time to hold to, to pass down generation to generation. These are the times we will always draw back to for strength, comfort and hope. This is the warm and magical season we call fall. Call someone to your gathering place this season, someone you know needs a place to gather.
Follow with me as I gather at the table to visit with others and learn of their legacy of traditions, their cherished memories of the gathering time and, maybe we’ll get a new idea or two! See why some comfort foods always remain. Feel the bounty of goodness in the harvest of this season.
“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?”
“Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”
In this day and time the holiday table is set in many different ways and places, from fine china to paper plates, store bought to home-baked. Still we gather at homes, at festive tailgate parties, there are meals prepared by church families to share with those in need, deer camp gatherings for the hunters, and for some it is the simple time to be alone with God their thoughts and this colorful season. And as life goes on there is the sadness of death or divorce that visits the gathering table. Wherever you gather may your harvest

of bounty be full. One thing for sure we have so much for which to be thankful for we must share with a grateful heart. My aunt’s home-made chocolate pies were always my favorite and a favorite of many in our family. She always made the children the small individual pies and that was such a special treat! (I have even known of a couple of young boy’s who once in helping bring in the pies from her car took a whole pie and hid it from everyone!) Other’s find true comfort in their Mothers chicken and dressing made fresh with sage and served with rich thick giblet gravy. Cream potatoes are always a must as well as sweet. These foods they call comfort foods, I believe they are called this because they take us back to our roots to our homes to memories we cherish that we feel safe with. Thanksgiving is a time for many to return to lake homes on Caddo and reminisce of summertime’s gone by, read a book and just be lazy! For many it is a gathering at a loved one’s nursing home and sharing in their day. Be creative with your celebration if you choose, be warm with your jesters for others. Touch someone’s heart and feel your soul, for this is the season of open homes and open hearts, join in.
Many lives are touched by the preparation and serving of Trinity Episcopal Church and the numerous individuals and other church families that gather together to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for the needy, homeless, shut-ins, the Marshall fire and Police Departments, as well as the Sheriff’s department, county and city jails, East Texas Open Door, the Juvenile Detention Center, Choices Youth Center, half-way homes, and many more I am sure not listed. In 2011 the church volunteers served approximately a thousand people who very well may have not had a Thanksgiving meal more importantly people were showing acts of kindness, caring, compassion and love. These acts change lives in positive ways, not only for the receiver, the giver as well. I was told by the church that the thank-you notes from those in jail were very appreciative. First Methodist, First Baptist Church, Saint Joseph Catholic Church and many more Churches and individuals assist in gathering table of love. Lunch will be served Thursday November 22nd from 11:30a.m. till 1:00p.m. Volunteers are always welcomed to join in for this very special time of Thanksgiving. Those who are shut-ins and need assistance with the delivery of a meal need to call the Church at (903)-938-4246, to make arrangements for your meal to be delivered.
Father Denzil Vithanage of Saint Joseph Catholic Church and his congregation have assisted Trinity for many years and continue to. In 2006 Father Denzil approached Bill Elliott, financial secretary for the Catholic Church and asked him if the council would help him provide the same type of program for the community on Christmas Day. It has been a success as the Thanksgiving feasts, serving the same people of need. Both of these programs as well as others take planning, money, devotion and time. I was overwhelmed by just imagining the names and maps to the shut-ins. This is a labor of love that Marshall is more than capable of doing. Theses acts of kindness are within each of us and should be called upon not only in the holiday season though through-out the seasons of our lives. Many do, many should, and we all can.
Traditions are of great importance, there the fabric of our history our lives. There passed from generation to generation, anticipated by the family both young and old. Traditions are written about and live within our homes and hearts. A favorite book of mine is “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions” by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
May you have a very Blessed holiday and may those you touch know you care ~
Cindy Anne