Faith Call Us to be Neighbors: In Thanksgiving for Community
Editor’s note: As part of FMS’ 2017 Advent blog series, Programs Associate Rose Urankar reflects on the past year and how community has welcomed her during that time.
“Where were you one year ago today?”
As we sat around the table, bellies full from our “Friendsgiving” feast, the FMS Casa community reflected on how our lives had changed since moving to Washington, DC, and beginning our year with FMS’ DC Service Corps three months prior. Some of us were entrenched in the highs and lows of senior year. One was wrapping up a graduate degree. Another was immersed in a service year with AmeriCorps. A particularly adventurous person was on a spiritual journey in Arizona. Even though we were all in different places a year ago, we had one thing in common—none of us would have expected that in a year’s time, we would be sitting around this table surrounded by a group of wacky, intentional, lovely individuals who had become quite dear to us in a short period of time.
Thinking about the welcoming nature of community led my mind down the well-worn road of memory to where I was one year ago: celebrating Thanksgiving with my community on mission in the Dominican Republic. Gathered around a makeshift dining room table on our makeshift patio, we indulged in a feast that was anything but makeshift—stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, apple pie, and even a beautiful turkey. It was a Thanksgiving miracle, and all of us had contributed something or sacrificed in some small way to make it happen.
Yet the presence of roast turkey on a Caribbean island was not the most surprising aspect of the day. After savoring our meal, I found myself digesting the eclectic mix of people sitting around the table. Four Americans, one Brit, three Germans, one Dominican, and two Nigerians…despite the traditional meal, this was the most atypical group with whom I had ever shared a Thanksgiving feast. Even so, it felt completely natural. Although I had not known any of these people just four months prior, since arriving in the Dominican, they had made me feel welcome. They had put a few fresh chinola flowers on my desk to brighten my space when I moved in. They had waited until I was ready to leave the house in the morning, knowing that I was not yet accustomed to the circuitous walking route from our house to our mission site. They had hung out in our living room for another hour after dinner, watching funny videos to decompress after a long day. They had sat with me in quiet prayer and reflection, often over a cup of tea, processing the ways God was working in our lives.
As Henri Nouwen says, “Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own.” Throughout my time in the Dominican up until that point, each one of the people around our Thanksgiving table had, even in small ways, put my interests above their own. It was in these little moments over four months that this eclectic group of people had become more than just roommates or co-workers, but community.
Reflection question: When did you last put someone else’s interests or desires above your own?