For the better part of a decade, local "good guy" Charlie Langton has been opening his home and his heart to Luther's international students. Charlie has taken the "open door" policy to a new level at Thanksgiving inviting all of Luther's international students to his home for a home-cooked feast, a chance to hang out with friends and for some pretty great dancing. I'll repeat one part of that in case you missed it... he invites them all. He doesn't invite one, or a few, or the ones he knows, or only students from countries he has visited... he invites them all. Do they all show up? No. Some of them are invited home with roommates for the weekend, some spend time with their Luther Friendship Families, (a sidenote shoutout to them as well... thank you all for opening your homes too) but many of them come to Charlie's and they're all welcome there.
Charlie was kind enough to invite me this year. I just wanted to come and take some photos because I had heard of this tradition of Charlie's from a former Luther prof-Dick Hemp-and wanted to see if maybe I could post some fun pictures from the night on Luther's Facebook page. Charlie said of course, and to bring the kids, stay as long as we wanted and to come hungry... oh and did I know how to carve a turkey?
There were kids from several different countries that came; I figure I heard at least three languages other than English tonight. The table was full of both traditional Thanksgiving fare as well as several different international dishes. And the music! Such good get-your-butt-off-the-couch dancing music that I don't think anyone who came could resist at least a little shimmy or shake. Charlie melded several cultures, customs, colors, ages and religions tonight with the effortless grace and charm of a seasoned host.
Charlie is a local icon, a beacon of kindness and generosity. I mentioned him before as a "good guy" and I want to be clear, I don't use those quotes because I want you to think he could or could not be a good guy, I use them because that's what EVERYONE calls him. I know, I asked. (Ok... maybe not everyone, but everyone I asked!) If you ask folks what they know about Charlie that's what they lead with, "He's just a really good guy." I draw attention to this not to embarass Charlie or put him on some sort of pedestal, but to lift him up as an example of all that is right with Decorah. There are so many good folks in Decorah, folks who help Luther students feel at home in our little corner of the world, that I wish I could thank them all personally.
I love hearing stories like Charlie's, and like that of Pete Espinosa and the folks at Pulpit Rock Brewing who also serve a Thanksgiving meal to Luther students who cannot make it home for turkey day festivities. These folks give up time with their own families on Thanksgiving Day to serve Luther students. Thanks Pete!
And to Nancy Barry! I'm not sure how many years she has helped Charlie host the international student crew, but she was there tonight cooking, carving and cleaning up. A gracious friend to all, especially my not-quite-two-year-old who she entertained part of the evening. (I'm not 100 percent sure who was entertaining whom.) Thank you Nancy!
On this day of Thanksgiving, I would like to thank all the Charlies, Petes and Nancys of Decorah. You all make this place amazing. When it comes right down to it, sometimes life is hard, sometimes it throws you things you don't want to deal with... and sometimes life is so good, and reminds you of all the things that make you happy and thankful. It's easy to find fault and frustration with small town living, but I cannot imagine living and working anywhere else. I am so thankful for my community, for my work family and for the ability to find the good folks in both that make life grand.
Thank you Decorah.
Thank you Luther.
Tonight, most of all, thank you Charlie for reminding me that reaching out to folks you care about is always ok, and good food, laughter and dancing just might be the cure for what ails you.