The story of Thanksgiving is one of people from different backgrounds coming together to celebrate life. The Native American and the Puritans sat down together to celebrate peace and togetherness. Despite their differences, these two groups of people came together as one to have a meal.

As this year’s Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it is important not only to celebrate with family, but also to learn about other traditions. Education can help people become more culturally aware and respectful of those around us, and is true to the spirit of the holiday.

This year, the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration will combine religious and non-religious traditions to celebrate the Thanksgiving season. With participation from Christian denominations, Native American representatives, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, secular and inclusive religious communities, the event will include prayers, music, sacred writing, reflections and meditation.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 23 at the Trinity Methodist Church and is open to the public. Students will have an opportunity to come together as a community to simply celebrate the holiday season in the Grand Rapids area. It is a chance to get to know people in Grand Rapids and to become an active member of that community, while enjoying diverse company.

With instances of religiously charged turmoil making headlines around the world, this is a great experience to come together as a community and practice acceptance and tolerance. This year’s theme, “Unity Through Diversity,” provides an opportunity to have conversations about differences and to become aware of those around you.

Learning about other religions and becoming understanding and tolerant of them will help you not only in your personal life, but also in your professional life. As our economy becomes increasingly global, it becomes more and more important that we learn about and communicate with people of other religions and traditions. This event is an opportunity to make connections and to gain exposure to practices different from your own.

Collections will also be taken for the East Paris Food Pantry, Congress Elementary School and Lutheran Social Services of Michigan at the dinner. Attendees will be asked to donate cans of non-expired, non-perishable food, winter clothes and coats or classroom supplies. With the holiday season quickly approaching, this is a great way to give back locally while also engaging in an educational and cultural community event.

With winter on its way, there will be many people in need of things like warm clothes or an extra meal. The Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration is an excellent opportunity to participate in the Grand Rapids community by giving to those less fortunate.

Members of the GVSU community are Lakers for a Lifetime, but they should also commit to being students for a lifetime, and taking advantage of interfaith opportunities like this Thanksgiving celebration is a great place to start.