For those of us who have experienced foster care firsthand, holidays can be a harsh reminder of lost connections.

As former foster youth, we want our brothers and sisters of the system to know:
  • That they always have a seat at our table...
  • That their voices, talents, insights and mutual encouragement are what lies at the heart of this celebration...
  • That it is an honor for us to stay in touch with them, as they enter into young adulthood, find their places in this world, and move beyond the shadows of their past to build bright futures and families of their own...

The purpose and goal of Ohio's annual regional Thanksgiving dinners is best expressed through Danny Taylor's poem, which he shared during the NE OH Dinner in 2010:

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Food for Thought by Danny Taylor, 11/20/10

Chew on this... you look left and right and see empty chairs
You talk about fun times over the year but silence only fills the air
You slouch down in your chair and no one scolds you and makes you sit up
A plate hits the floor and no one tell you to get up

I know. Hard to imagine, yet crazy as it seems
This is reality for some, at times even myself
To lie to myself and say all I need is myself
No dinner on the table... just another day I'm thankful for being able to see more misery

Grateful for feeling unwanted and not feeling a part of the family
Knowing and having it shoved in my face like the dressing
Stuffed like a turkey of thoughts so depressing
It shouldn't be like this!

Why is it like this?
Why can't I connect with you? Why can't you connect with me? Why is it like this?
How come my yams aren't so sweet?
The circumstances have delivered to me a plate of haha and playing in the street
Inside it's a little pink, outside it's barely brown
Yet it feels right knowing it's wrong but I just ignore how it sound

The fact is my heart isn't on this empty plate and fork
So naturally, of course,
I just lay my face on the napkin and fill it with tears
Those tears are shaped like the things I wish I had here

I know no one, and you treat me as the closet outcast
I wonder if I will outlast
Another year like this one here
And then it becomes clear

As I awake from my sleep, realizing I'm drifting on my past
Surely it didn't last
Surely this shouldn't happen to anyone; but it does
What can I do to change that?

I ask myself every day how can I build on this castle?
I want my brothers and sisters to have it better than me
Come forth, let your plate be stacked
Run around laughing, like you don't know how to act

Who said anything about misery?
I'm all smiles and giggles, come look at me
Looky! Looky! I got collard greens
And never had zucchini bread until I had some from the wonderful lady

Every time I take a bite, I savor the flavor and think how much better it taste around everyeone
Everything is better when you can do it with the people you cherish
No one wants to be left out, so why do we feel clothes and shelter make a home?
Why don't we think about those who spend Thanksgiving feeling alone?

Those who long to be wanted and loved
Thanksgiving is about more than turkey and cornbread, it's about cherishing those you love
Family is taken for granted until they're gone
A person can have three people in their circle, but yet fill up a church when they croak

In a time where peace of mind has a price limit
But peace and love have no bounds or limits
We may not be able to give a dollar, but at least give a care
And thank about what you would do if you had no one to share

Simply because you was the only one sitting at that empty table
Trying to be thankful in your heart but unable
And we so quick to say, it can always be worse - yeah, true, but it can always be better
So does that make me selfish because I want more and to have better

All right, the next time you have a Thanksgiving and struggle with a prayer for the cross
Think about all those chairs and plates being bare...
Now that, my friend, is Food for Thought.

~ Danny Taylor