I’m a confirmed user of place cards for a holiday meal. It’s all about giving me a bit of control. For the good of our guests, of course!
Control takes two forms. First, I can place some guests next to one another, and other guests far apart. We had one granny, for example, who would home in on a grandson’s unsuspecting girlfriend: “Now honey what does your father do?”
More importantly, place cards give me the pleasure of attempting to steer table conversation from the trivial to the significant. From what one is doing at work to what particular satisfaction is being derived from it. That’s because written inside each place card is a question for the guest to answer.
Some of our family members find their place at the table and flip over their place card quickly to have a little time to consider. At some point in the meal I will ask our guests to look at their questions, and we go around the table and answer them.
For Thanksgiving, of course the questions deal with thankfulness. Here are some samples:
“What is something you are thankful for that was difficult this year?”
“Where do you see a harvest in your life?”
“Where are you planting a seed in your life?”
“Share a Thanksgiving memory from your childhood.”
The hope is that gathered around table at a feast, with worries at least for a time behind us, we will be at ease enough to share our stories. These are gifts that we give, if we feel secure enough.
To that end we have two rules for our table questions: You don’t have to answer your question, and if you liked someone else’s question better than yours, you can choose to answer it instead.
Pass the turkey. Pass on a legacy. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is about?