Gratitude Revisited through Immigrant Eyes

Last week they were working 12 hour days, sometimes 15, including the girl with a shy smile who’s only sweet sixteen.
And waiting for exit visas.
And wondering what kind of place they were coming to that would elect a presidential candidate like Donald Trump.
When you’ve lived up close and personal to national chaos, corruption and war, it’s your prerogative to feel afraid.

But today’s a new day with fresh mercies and we’re grabbing a fast food lunch together instead.
Good old fashioned hamburgers and fries.
“You choose your own drink,” I tell my new friend. He matches mine, diet root beer, takes one sip and his expression speaks louder than words. “You don’t have to drink it,” I assure him as I pour it down the soda dispenser drain and add Sprite to his cup instead. Just enough to taste this time. And it’s a hit. He smiles.
“Not so much ice next time,” he comments thinking he didn’t get very much pop in his cup .
“Actually, it doesn’t matter,” I reply. “You can go back and refill your cup as much as you want.”
“That’s good!” he states emphatically.

There are five of us snuggly seated in a booth. Before we eat, I pray. Hearts and hands connected around the table forming a circle of friendship and God right there in the middle of this great adventure.

I give the boy-man my fries because I must decrease while he must increase.
And then it’s time to choose our frozen custard.
“You eat ice cream in the winter?” my friend asks.
“We eat ice cream winter, spring, summer and fall,” I respond.
With that, his cup overflows.
“America is beautiful. You have a good life here.”
“It so easy. It is so nice.”

Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see what’s obvious.
And my new friend, the one I’m supposed to be helping,
He’s helping me too.
Giving me pause to wonder at the normal.
To appreciate the mundane.
To acknowledge the gifts and then start counting them.

It’s not that I don’t carry my own set of concerns and they’re legit. They weigh me down by day and keep me up at night.

But, here I am in this place where we held a presidential election last week. And everybody got to vote. Somebody won fair and square and as of today, all hell hasn’t broken loose–yet anyway. And those who flee to Canada are doing so by choice, whining like toddlers as they go.

I own a home on a large piece of property and so many possessions I’m selling stuff off on craigslist half the time. And I feel safe here. I lock the doors at night without fear of intrusion or harm.

I educate my children my way, with my values and my curriculum choices in my four walls. And if they want to, they sit around in their pajamas and a nice warm pair of slippers drinking hot chocolate with a great big dollup of redi-whip while they multiply decimals and write essays all day.
And when they earn their high school diploma, my girls enroll in college, buy themselves a car and become independent, respected members of society.

I go to church each Sunday and worship God freely. Every demonimation and faith tradition has a gathering place in my community and we all get a choice about where we want to attend and what we want to believe.

My husband works hard, makes sacrifices and travels a lot in order to provide for us. And some months, it’s hard to see clear how to pay all the bills but our grocery budget keeps us well nourished and we’ve all got multiple pairs of shoes for every season.

And if that’s not enough, this past summer I spent one afternoon every single week, basking in the sun, toes in the sand and riding the waves on the Greatest Lake ever.

I’m prone to take these gifts for granted, but my new friends, they’ve lived a different story and the contrast reminds me to be Grateful.img_2818

You see, not everybody everywhere gets a fair vote. Corruption thwarts the process and factions of political and religious groups go wild taking revenge. Then all hell really does break loose.

Some people leave their homes to escape the draft and flee war. They love their country, they just aren’t safe anymore so they run away. And they don’t get to take their photo albums. They store their memories in that beautifully complex organ called the brain instead. And some of those memories, they hope the brain will selectively forget because the pain of recall could snap an already traumatized psyche.

Tweens go to work with their parents instead of school. All day long, six days a week, in order to eek out a subsistence level income.

Families are divided and wait for re-settlement all over the world.

There aren’t options about how to worship and who to worship. Heads roll when people opt out of the religious party line.

And there’s pretty much no time for recreation, especially not a leisurely romp at the beach.

img_2855-2So, this Thanksgiving, I’m taking a new look at all of His fresh mercies, confirmations of His faithfulness, evidence of His love.
I’m acknowledging the privilege of my citizenship in the USA and I’m doing so in the company of those who don’t take this blessing for granted.
I’m documenting it on my shirt, the one my daughter designed, the one I will wear when we walk the trail together this Thanksgiving morning recounting the goodness of God written all over our stories.
And when we sit around the bountiful buffet with family and friends this Thursday and reach for the hand of the ones we love gathered around the table, we will give credit where credit is due, to the same God the original immigrants thanked. The one who caused produce to grow and feed the Separatists and Strangers alike.
The One who fortified those brave men, women and children with courage and stamina to persevere through incredible loss and hardship.
The One who gifted the immigrant with Native American neighbors to befriend them.

And I will try to continue that neighborly tradition going forward. Befriending the immigrant and sharing the bounty.

Happy Thanksigiving!

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