A young boy, sat at a table full of people he didn’t know. A large family, all helping to make their thanksgiving dinner. Smells and laughter waft through the house. No television to distract from the face-to-face interaction. All the food is scratch made. The kitchen is littered with bits and pieces of dishes and ingredients, a messy labor of love. The smiles and plate passing keep the energy up. The boy is confused, there is no turkey, but a large plate of chitlins, and a ham. There aren’t any scalloped potatoes, but collard greens. As much as Thanksgiving is a universal experience, it differs house to house, culture to culture. This is a short story about how he came to know his neighbors.
The year is 2004 in Cincinnati, Ohio. A young boy sits next to his friend, who looks different than him. The friend’s name is Daniel. These two had been as thick as thieves for the past couple of years now. The two boys had met after school one day, walking home from the bus stop. They realized that they both had something in common. Imagination, and free time. These boys would play together for hours after school. They developed quite a strong friendship over the time they lived in the same apartment complex with each other. Their shared interest in Star Wars catapulted their friendship and playtime to another level.
These two boys were inseparable. The holiday season was fast approaching, and they were trying to find a way to spend more time together. They came up with a great idea. In order to play for as long as possible, Daniel and the boy would ask their mothers if they could enjoy Thanksgiving at Daniels’ house. The question was answered in the affirmative. The boy rejoiced. For the first time ever, he would spend Thanksgiving away from his mother. This was a new and interesting development, as his mother found out she had to work a double shift on Thanksgiving at the restaurant she worked at. It’s off to Daniel’s house for Thanksgiving!
The holiday started off as any other, with the family arriving in a staggered convoys of cars, trucks, and SUVs. The family was much larger than the boy had thought it would be. There were almost fifty people crammed into the living room, and the boy tried to make friends with every single person he met. Some people were more interested in catching up with the family they came to see, and they brushed off the boy. This led him to go into the kitchen and ask if he could help with dinner. He was told, “young white boys got no place in my kitchen honey. Go play with Daniel.” “That was a strange thing to say”, he thought. Nevertheless, he obeyed. Daniel was playing outside with his cousins when the boy arrived.
After some time playing outside, it was finally dinner time. The family all gathered in and around the dining room, linked hands and said a prayer for the food they were about to eat. The boy felt strange. He felt out of place. This wasn’t his family, and these people don’t look like him or his family. They had different food, different rules, and different clothes. The boy was confused, and slightly bewildered about how people can do Thanksgiving in such a different way. That boy grew up to be me. That Thanksgiving sticks in my mind as one of the core memories of my childhood. I still remember all the good times I had with Daniel, and the many meals I would go on to share with him and his family.
My article is more of a story, an insight into the mind of a child who has never heard the word race. This child had never heard of diversity, inclusion, or any of the like. All he knew was that he wanted to play with his friends. Most of his friends had a different skin color than him. That didn’t matter, and it never did. This story serves as the most important part of diversity to me. Exposure. Most people will live their lives without being exposed to the culture and ways of people that are different than them. That experience as a child taught me a lesson about how every family is different, with different cultures and different rules. Different foods, and different families. Our differences can be shared, embraced, and celebrated. If there is anything that I can ask that you take away from this, it’s that.