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Who Can You Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2013 Nov 26

She first saw the elderly gentleman at a cemetery on Thanksgiving morning. She watched him cry at a grave, holding a bouquet of flowers.

After observing him for a bit, Hortencia Pérez left the friend she was accompanying and made her way over to the man. Although she wasn’t entirely comfortable speaking in English, she chose compassion over fear.

During their short conversation, Hortencia discovered that the man in tears had lost his wife only two weeks before and that he had nowhere to spend Thanksgiving.

Hortencia didn’t even think twice before inviting him to her home. She scribbled her address on a piece of paper and asked him to arrive at 2 p.m. She didn’t think he’d show up, but was overjoyed when he did. He ended up spending Thanksgiving Day with Hortencia, her husband and her daughters. In fact, Jim made it a tradition, and attended for the next seven years until he passed away.

“I miss him,” Hortencia said the other day, looking ahead to this Thanksgiving.

Hortencia is a long-time Focus on the Family staffer who works keeping our campus clean and presentable. She’s a small, quiet and diligent woman, and a great cook. All of us love and appreciate her very much.

But while I knew she had a sweet disposition, it was still surprising to learn about her unofficial “Thanksgiving Day ministry” of inviting people outside her network of family and friends to her home for that important meal. That’s because not too many people do such a thing. And when we hear about such a wonderful outreach, it really stands out.

Jim wasn’t her only guest. Strangers, her daughter’s friends from college who couldn’t afford a plane ticket home, men or women who had recently lost a spouse … all are invited, all are welcomed, and all are loved.

One year, between family, friends and these special “guests of honor,” Hortencia entertained 28 people in her home. They overflowed from her dining room, some sitting and others standing.

This year is no different. Hortencia will be hosting two families who lost their homes in Colorado’s recent wildfires.

I think that’s pretty special.

Hortencia thinks it’s no big deal.

To hear her explain things, it’s the natural thing to do. She’s motivated by her faith, and also by her Mexican heritage. Hospitality is an important part of that culture, and she saw the example set by her grandmother and mom. It’s one she hopes to pass along to her daughters through her example.

“No one will ever become poor because they gave someone a meal,” she explains. “People tend to get depressed during the holidays, and I can help. Our home isn’t huge, but I can make sure it’s spotless and welcoming. We can give people love.”

And it seems like there’s always someone in need of love. Hortencia believes God puts people in her path because she is willing to take them in.

“It’s wonderful to host your family and friends on Thanksgiving,” Hortencia says. “But I think it’s more beautiful to invite people you don’t know, and to make them feel welcomed and at home. The more you help, the more God blesses you so you can continue helping.”

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