The days just before Thanksgiving are reportedly the heaviest travel time of the year as millions of Americans board airliners to join distant family and friends for the holiday.
But this year, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, many are understandably wary of flying. As a result, there may be more empty seats than usual around the Thanksgiving Day table and more people with nothing to look forward to but a cheerless dinner for one.
The Graduate School of Education (GSE) has anticipated that some M.A. and Ph.D. students may find themselves in this situation and has taken steps to help. The School is making a special effort to match graduate students who have opted to remain in Cambridge for the holiday with Harvard families eager to share the bounty of their tables.
Nancy Nienhuis, director of the Office of Student Affairs, said that the idea of matching students with families eager to offer holiday hospitality came about soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, but the response has been so positive that Nienhuis is thinking about making the Thanksgiving match-up an annual event.
“I think it makes the students feel really good to know that the community is trying to do this for them,” Nienhuis said.
For those students who may feel shy about accepting the hospitality of strangers, Nienhuis is exploring other options. One possibility is to identify local organizations that host annual Thanksgiving dinners, such as the Friends Quaker Meeting House in Longfellow Park. Other possible ways in which the School might help are organizing a group potluck dinner or subsidizing an outing to a local restaurant.
But whether it’s restaurant fare or home cooking, Nienhuis hopes to ensure that no GSE student will be without a hearty Thanksgiving feast or companions to share it with.