The therapist, writer, and international speaker, Esther Perel said this about relationships: “The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life.”
At Thanksgiving, for many families, we are confronted by the quality of our relationships. Some of us enjoy being with our family and friends. We look forward to coming together for any meal or celebration. While others find conflict and strife when our family gathers together. Most of us probably find ourselves feeling both of these sets of emotions at least some of the time.
For this Thanksgiving 2021, those of us who are hosting might be particularly nervous. After 18 months of social distancing, how will everyone get along when they are around the same table? Will they argue about Covid restrictions and vaccinations, the environment, or politics?
Let’s think about being more intentional around how we gather folks for Thanksgiving this year. Through a lightly facilitated exercise during a Thanksgiving meal we can dig a bit deeper and move beyond our ego stories to more soulful ones, which will help everyone feel more connected to themselves and to each other. When we don’t, we might spend all of our time thinking about the menu.
Invite everyone who is joining your Thanksgiving meal to come prepared to share a story.
Here are two different prompts:
1. Share a story about a person (living or dead) to whom you would like to say thank you, and something specific they helped you learn or understand that has impacted your life.
2. Share a story about your own life that you are grateful for. The catch is, think about a story that nobody else in the room already knows.
After you choose which prompt you want, send it out to your invitees in advance so they can come prepared.
Once folks are gathered around the table, open up your evening of “L’Chayim!”
Set some ground rules first and share with folks that they have 1-3 minutes to share their story. At the end of their story, they should invite everyone to raise their glass and say, “To… (name of person or name of life lesson learned)”, and everyone can take a sip from their drink.
To make it lively, let folks know that the last person to share their story has to do so standing on a chair. This way you can ensure that folks will volunteer to speak so that they don’t have to go last. It also lends a dramatic flair to the end of the evening.
You should be the first one to start off so that you can model how the process works.
I would love to know if you try this, or something like it around your Thanksgiving table.
With lots of gratitude and blessings for the journey,
Ps. A big shout out to Kim Weinberg and Rae Ringel whose wise facilitation skills inspired this piece and to Priyah Parker for her book The Art of Gathering. This idea is a riff on one she shares in her book.
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