How about them ‘Buffs?
Growing up, our family never traveled at Thanksgiving, but instead stayed in Colorado to spend the day with beloved friends. As it tends to be for holidays, we had our traditions that were necessary to keep. We’d be sure to bring scalloped corn, green bean casserole, and extra helpings of passionate convictions that made for intense conversations.
Each of us had big opinions and great minds and huge hearts, so discussions about theology, politics, and more had a fierce, smart intensity. But there was one year when the table conversation was particularly heavy and heated. And into the fray my brother said with a smile, “so, how about them ‘Buffs?” (The University of Colorado football team was having an unexpectedly good season that year.)
And we all laughed. This humorous moment was a release valve of sorts, reorienting us back to each other. Still, to this day, we often find ourselves with these same dear friends, in the same intense conversations. And without fail, at some point, one of us will always break in with: “So…. how about them ‘Buffs?”
Many of us are planning to gather around tables this Thanksgiving. It might be the first time back with family for a long time. There will be so much joy as we regather with people we love and as we return to these traditions that we haven’t been able to keep. But there may be challenges, too, as we come back together after time apart, and when many of us may carry all kinds of different opinions and perspectives. But this, too, can be part of the goodness of being together – not something to be avoided or ignored – but a chance to learn from each other and rebuild connections.
These days may feel particularly polarized but there is nothing new about being together when we aren’t all the same. This is just part of being family, being community. At our best, we can gather around our tables (and altars) giving each other the space to be fully ourselves, to hold various opinions, to bring our experiences and stories. We’re different (thankfully!) even as we share common values, or a last name, or uniquely shaped noses, or faith commitments.
The goodness of community is not in our sameness – but in the ways we remain together even with our differences. So, I hope that you make space for as many diverse experiences and opinions around your tables as you have side dishes, and that you listen deeply and speak honestly and humbly. And, when things get a little intense, you can pause, and say, “well, how about them Buffs (or Hawkeyes or Cyclones or. . . )?” And then laugh together, reorienting and reconnecting.
The Thanksgiving after my Dad died, we gathered with these same friends and others. At one point in the meal, there was a weighty quiet around the table, a sort of communal sadness as we missed a strong voice and big presence at the meal. And someone said into that quiet, “well, how about them ‘Buffs?” We laughed with tears in our eyes, grateful for a space we could be honest in our grief, and our hope.
As we gather around tables these coming days (and especially as we Christians gather around Communion tables), I pray that we can come to those tables with our full selves – whether it is with our grief or passionate opinions or joy. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for communities where we can be together, in all our beautiful differences.