Back in 1994, I discovered a wonderful children’s book called The Greatest Table: A Banquet to Fight Hunger. Printed on one side of a continuous sheet of paper, it folds into itself like an accordion and creates an amazing book.
Sixteen children’s book authors collaborated with the charitable group Share our Strength. The money raised by the sales of this book went to fight hunger in America. Each artist interpreted what “the greatest table” meant for them and the editor Michael J. Rosen arranged it into a unique treasure.
Because I could not presume that all of my middle school students would be celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner - nothing like those idealized and elaborate feasts one sees on television - I used this book to demonstrate that we each celebrate differently and to different degrees.
In the book people of all cultures and ethnicities sit around different tables; some are seated on mats or blankets. Some are indoors; some are outdoors. Single souls or whole crowds, everyone is grateful for what they have. Some pages show two parents; others show several generations, but others have only one parent or none. On some pages groups of children sit together. They might be siblings or they might be friends.
The food varies and not one page has the traditional American turkey and dressing menu. Soups, fruits, and breads are served. Everything looks inviting.
There is no one definition for what makes “the greatest table,” except for one thing – the invitation to share. Throughout the book, the message is clear. The greatest table is one in which we share what we have with others.
With Thanksgiving approaching soon, we are all reminded that the day is to show our gratitude, and what better way than to share our bounty with others.