The “Today” show and its busy staff can't help but be caught up in the holiday spirit, especially since the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree stands just outside the doors. Maria Shriver sat beside Hoda Kotb this morning, December 10, for the “Hoda & Jenna” hour, since Jenna Bush Hager was making her way back from Vietnam and her exclusive feature with Michelle Obama.

It's nothing new for Maria and Hoda to ponder the deeper things that matter in life, and the Christmas season pushes common human needs to the foreground, for most people. Idina Menzel made thinking about the bigger themes in life easier for everyone, this morning, with her recital of “At This Table,” which she also performed during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special, last week.

The Broadway star and songwriter spoke of song’s themes of “inclusivity, acceptance, and forgiveness” in hopes that they would call to friends, and people she knows, who don’t feel welcome at home at their family table. As it turns out, Maria Shriver hosts Sunday dinners, every weekend, that welcome many folks from different backgrounds and viewpoints. She lives out the song’s message every Sunday.

As a mother, however, Maria Shriver was unprepared to see her burgeoning movie star son, Patrick Schwarzenegger, in a love scene for his new movie. She talked about the quandary between pride and trying to process her son’s new role, bringing Hoda Kotb to giggles.

Always an open door

Idina Menzel opens her heart-rending ballad with the assurance that “everyone is welcome” and “everyone is seen” at the table of humankind described.

The lyrics of the song also echo that “everyone's forgiven” and “you can speak your mind.” Such a welcome is certainly rare in today's headlines or social media, no matter how many employees are committed to screening and appropriate policies.

Both Maria and Hoda openly “teared up” as they listened to “At This Table” while getting ready for their “Today” segment.

Idina Menzel made a special trip to the makeup room to play the song for Shriver, who told the “Frozen” superstar that it would become her anthem for the new year.

The household of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger was the ultimate blended family. She was raised in the Democratic, social activism of the Kennedy family, while her ex-husband stepped away from his Hollywood image to become Republican governor of California.

Although their marriage ended in 2017, their devotion to their children and to robust, open dialogue remains a family hallmark. Maria Shriver simply says “I love learning about people. I love to learn their stories.”

Her innate curiosity and caring about the larger scope of life leads her to invite many people to dinner around her own table. She says that her daughters tease that “you don't even know this person,” but still, the invitation is extended. Maria recently wrote about the search for love and true belonging when society is so cyber connected, and yet people are feeling so isolated, in her “Sunday Paper” newsletter.

At the screening of Patrick Schwarzenegger’s new movie, however, Maria Shriver was just mom, and she wasn't sure how to react when she realized her son had a love scene.

A revealing moment

Hoda Kotb put out a teaser that at the end of the week, the segment would have a special “Today” guest, who just happens to be the strikingly handsome son of Maria Shriver. Like every parent, mom Maria is delighted to see her son branching out from successful modeling to movie roles. His potential is partly genetic from his father’s side, but also full of pressure for the same reason, and the same last name.

Maria had a moment different from pride when she saw Patrick in a revealing love scene on the big screen. She confesses that “I feel awkward. Should I look? Should I not look?” all were questions swirling in her head. She was thankful not to be sitting next to her son or his girlfriend at the time.

She still endorses “Daniel Isn't Real” as “a real mind-bender.” Eventually, she will come to understand that certain exposures are part of modern moviemaking.

Even after seeing Patrick in this new light, he and whoever he chooses as his guest are more than welcome at his mom’s table. Hopefully, more open hearts will be the gift of choice this Christmas season.

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