Susana Orrego recently moved to the U.S. from Colombia and instantly noticed some differences.
“The first month was hard for me, because in Colombia we say hello to all the people in the streets. And sometimes, the people don’t reply back. So I told my mom, probably the people are not so friendly,” she told CBS Boston station WBZ.
Another new aspect to American life: Thanksgiving. Orrego, who moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband as she studies at Harvard Medical School, said she wants to try and embrace the new country that opened doors for her.
So, she decided to. Orrego posted on the Nextdoor app, which connects neighbors in their communities. “Hey, we are a couple that is not from America. We want to know about Thanksgiving, we want to share the experience,” she said.
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Orrego said she and her husband wanted to spend the holiday with an American family. More than 200 people answered. Complete strangers responded to Orrego’s post with invitations to their Thanksgiving dinners.
Carol Lesser, of Brookline, stood out. “She mentioned that she had a multi-generational family. So for me, it was amazing,” Orrego said.
Lesser was just as excited to be picked for the couple’s first Thanksgiving.
“I said to her, I felt like I won the lottery because she chose us and we get a chance to meet them,” Lesser told WBZ. “She seemed so genuine in her reaching out, and I felt like we could reciprocate and show her a good side of America.”
On Thanksgiving, Lesser hosted about 20 people — a mix of family and friends, including the Orregos. Lesser and Susana Orrego took time to speak with CBS News during their Thanksgiving celebration and when asked if she’s always been “the more the merrier” type, Lesser’s son chimed in: “Yes.”
“So, truth be told, my mom was like this as well,” Lesser said. “If anyone needed a place for Thanksgiving, and they need a place to go, my mom would call me up – because my mom used to volunteer as a senior citizen at the Brookline senior citizen home – and she’d usually say, ‘There’s someone who needs a place.’ And we’d always say yes to anyone my mom wanted to bring. It’s been our tradition.”
The women said they felt an instant connection when they met, and they hope their story spreads a message of kindness.
“These are really troubled times where there’s tremendous distrust and animosity and division,” Lesser said. “And to have an experience where you can meet someone who’s a ‘stranger’ and have them feel so familiar, it makes the world seem smaller. It makes it seem like things haven’t changed that much after all. It’s really good to act this way — not just on Thanksgiving — but every day.”
“Sometimes, we’re living dark days. And if you can be a candle to put life in others’ lives, it’s quite amazing. And that’s what I feel about Carol,” Orrego said. “Carol was the candle that opened the magic box of kindness. So, be kind. Kindness is free.”