How Will You Set Your Table?

Nov 23, 2016

This post is by Tracy Hoover, Points of Light’s CEO.

Did you know that it was Abraham Lincoln who declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday? It’s true, and a good factoid for trivia night. It also seems especially fitting and worthy of note as we approach this year’s Thanksgiving Day. Because this week’s holiday wasn’t born from nostalgia about the “good ole days” at Plymouth Rock or because Lincoln’s ancestors were pilgrims. Rather, at America’s darkest moment – when economic and ideological divides, and the brutality of war had pitted brothers, neighbors, friends against each other, Lincoln called for thanksgiving. Amidst the bloody battle and the pervasive rhetoric of difference, our visionary 16th president knew that the ritual of coming together and giving thanks is powerful. That it could enliven a young democracy, repair a union, quiet the craven yell and reclaim a shared humanity.  

These are powerful ideals: shared harvest, fellowship, community, a seat at the table. From civil war to civil rights, the table has been central and symbolic – to healing, equality, justice, progress, and patriotism, too. There’s a reason Dr. King spoke so often about the table of brotherhood. Separated by a hundred years, perhaps both Abe Lincoln and Dr. King believed that table-by-table Americans would reunite across differences and that together they would redefine the common good and reimagine a new, shared American dream.   

Last week, a colleague who works every day to build community told me that he dreads gathering with family this Thanksgiving. He fears that at their table – like many tables in America this week – the deep divides and stark disparities the election revealed will be laid bare. I’ve heard similar concerns from many other colleagues and friends. So, this week, we did what we always do, we looked to the points of light community for ideas and answers.

“How will you transform your table?” we asked. “How will you come back together across differences? How will you start a conversation that matters?”

  • Our partners at Repair the World offer resources for hosting a dinner and facilitating a productive dialogue that allows guests to share, heal, process and talk about where we are individually and as a country. You can download resources and share on social using #ShabbatConversation.
  • This free Campaign for Change download from artist, designer, illustrator, and educator Andrea Pippins provides a kind and compassionate starting place for crucial conversations. These beautiful grown-up coloring sheets will be the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving table and a central theme of the conversations I hope spark there.
  • In the wake of an historic election, people from all walks of life are looking for ways to come together, to tackle tough challenges, and to find healing by helping others. That why Points of Light launched Service Unites, an online platform and campaign that asks Americans to serve. This effort will tap into the unlimited hope and potential of individuals to spark change and create solutions to the issues facing our communities and our country. Make your pledge today at and share your service story using #ServiceUnites.

May this Thanksgiving, and the conversations at our tables, begin to bind us, heal us and repair our nation. May ours be tables of brotherhood where justice, equality and love of country spark conversations, connect us to each other, and enliven our young democracy.

Robert Montgomery