The Way I See it: Thankful for family and friends

It's Thanksgiving in Canada Oct. 14 and Michele Blais is looking forward to spending it with the people she loves

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you are able to enjoy the company of friends and family and enjoy a fine meal to celebrate the harvest.

Thanksgiving is my community holiday, or my “new family” holiday as I have rarely spent this celebration with my siblings or parents since I left my parents’ home. I chose to live miles away from my close relatives and so on this particular weekend I would spend it in the company of friends. Friends who are my Vernon or my Fort McMurray or Banff or Manhattan Beach family. My oldest has not spent Thanksgiving with us for five years and he will share it with friends this year.

As young adults the phone lines would burn back to our parents’ home as we asked for family recipes or specific directions on cooking a turkey. These dinners were always potluck and we enjoyed some fabulous dishes. Sometimes we have been delightfully surprised by the culinary skills of some of our friends, usually the rugby players.

Jammed together in who ever had the biggest home with an open-door policy, we would come together to give thanks for the camaraderie and feast we enjoyed. These were really fun times and I am glad I experienced them.

Even though I come from a large family, what I have learned over the years is that family members can be many people and not always the ones to whom we are related. My mother always had kids living with us, not officially through the foster system just extending a hand to families or kids that needed a break. She was called “Mom” by more than six.

When our families do not live in the same community as us, we connect with our friends and share the holidays together. Adults and children enjoying each other’s company, cooking together, smiling, laughing and telling stories. These times together always warm my heart and we often go around the table each of us, especially the youngest child, sharing what we are thankful for. I feel such gratitude.

My community brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles have been so kind to me in so many ways and always have made me feel welcome in their homes, given me a shoulder to lean on, and sometimes a kick when needed. I hope I have provided the same.

There are many families in Vernon who share a similar experience whose extended families are elsewhere and who have created their own community family. Families always grow and so there is space for others to join and benefit from the connection, as well as the person who extended the invitation.

This year as you sit around the table enjoying the feast before you, I hope you can find time to think of others who may not be able to enjoy the meal and consider how you may help. As the mad holiday season approaches and you consider what gifts you will give each other, consider making a donation to a charity as a gift. It will be a gift with many benefits. Including a tax receipt.

I am supporting the Community Dental Access Centre as I know first-hand from seeing with past clients and a dear friend how important being able to access dental care is to someone’s health and to their self-esteem. Dental care can be expensive and if you do not have the funds to pay, your health is affected. To eat a meal pain-free, or to have your smile back and the confidence to apply for work, or be more social is very important.

CDAC has an angel fund where the donations go to people who can’t pay the discounted dental rate. This clinic is amazing and exists because of the pure unrelenting determination of Laine Lowe and her band of generous dentists, dental assistants, volunteers, staff, donors and ambassadors.

Be thankful you can enjoy this day, the company of friends and family, savour a fine feast and do so with your big smile.

Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the Vernon area for the past 27 years.