Thanksgiving has arrived.
Which can mean a variety of things for Taylor students. Some enjoy the holiday and the travel that comes with it. Others — not so much.
But something that will be very prevalent for many students is a shared meal with a number of family members. Maybe it’s only the immediate family or maybe it's 40 aunts, uncles, cousins and all the like.
Either way, these meals can make or break the holiday. A time of fellowship and re-connecting with loved ones (along with good food) can make Thanksgiving one to remember, and one to make future holidays anticipated with greater excitement.
Or, as many seem to encounter, the Thanksgiving meal can lead to a time of unwanted conversation. Maybe there’s problems within the family that some feel the need to hash out over the meal, or maybe someone at the table insists on getting across their most controversial viewpoints, even when they aren’t asked for.
Some are likely reading this thinking of an exact person or topic in their head, and already dreading it being brought up.
“For those that anticipate these tough conversations, I would encourage them to be proactive,” Assistant Professor of Social Work Kara Riggleman said. “It’s the worst when we are caught off guard and say something we didn’t mean or didn’t think through, so having a response can be really helpful.”
Riggleman encouraged students to think of these potential conversations and find a way to encourage them to be tabled until later in a more appropriate setting, or tabled for good if it isn’t something that needs to be discussed.
The Thanksgiving table is intended to be a time of celebration of the Lord’s goodness to us. It’s an opportunity to connect with loved ones over a shared meal. Extending love through our actions and words to our family, including focusing on making the fellowship enjoyable and a restful experience for all involved, should be our priority.
“I just feel like you have to check your intention and your heart behind it,” sophomore Rebekah Hirschorn said. “If you're like, if you want to genuinely have a conversation and both listen to each other, that's one thing. But if you just want to talk with that person, because you believe you're right, and you want to convince them that and they're trying to do the same with you, nothing beneficial is going to come out of that so it's like, especially around the holidays, why try to infuse divisiveness into the way you speak?”
The priority should not be using these rare occasions where families and friends gather as an attempt to have these people see the world the way you do.
Riggleman acknowledges that many of these conversations may be necessary or fruitful — but should be had outside of the context of a holiday meal.
“We forget that the holidays can be really hard for people,” Riggleman said. “They might be stressed, may be tired from traveling, or out of their routine, so they may not respond well during these conversations. If you really want to talk with someone about a potentially difficult topic, I would suggest setting up a different time.”
And, if the conversation needs to happen (outside of the holidays) she recommends that a constructive way to handle it could be with a resource share. Share sources on the topic and how each member of the conversation has gone about learning about it. This helps keep the conversation from being personal, and makes it more informed.
So, when traveling from Taylor this week to wherever you’re going to end up over this upcoming break, think of ways to keep the priority of Thanksgiving in mind. It can be an opportunity to connect with others and exude thankfulness over a meal which can make it a fruitful time. A time of rest, joy and gratitude. Or it can be exhausting and stressful. We can’t control others, but we can control our own approaches going into these conversations.
“And for me, I just remind myself like, just don't give them the reaction that they’re looking for,” Hirschorn said. “Don't perpetuate it. Because at the end of the day, neither one of us is going to change our minds. And when you're on the other end of it you just have to take those steps and just be proactive in how you conduct yourself, you know, and at the end of the day, everyone's entitled to their opinion. So, whether you agree or disagree with that, you don't have to let it ruin your holidays.”