I‘m not going to pretend otherwise, these past two Thanksgivings have been difficult for me personally. Life’s bedeviling circumstances have interrupted homeostasis and occasions I once celebrated have become nagging reminders of what I once had as I find myself enveloped by austerity that seems omnipresent.
It was with this ennui in mind that I found myself this morning, as I was cooking a Thanksgiving feast for countless strangers who have become family by means of chance and adversity, that I made it a point over and over again to find solace by making the person next to me smile and doggedly finding meaning in place of sorrow’s companionship.
Life’s veers and bends can be jarring; where we once had comfort and security can be altered in a minute—nothing is guaranteed in life it seems at times other than hardship and misfortune. This experience of mine is not unique, all of us go through crucibles and none of us can escape the dulling moments of life that make us question the very reason for our existence.
But it is in these precise moments that we must give thanks above all. Regardless of the injustices that prevail upon our lives and the tribulations that arrive at our doorsteps, we must find levity in the same places where distress finds fruitfulness. The truest audacity that we have within us is to look suffering right square in the eyes and smile.
I write this because I could have spent the whole day subsumed in gloom and undone by the feeling of solitude. Yet when I sat down to eat Thanksgiving dinner among fellow wounded souls, I looked up and saw two children smiling and finding happiness regardless of their environment. It was touching really, one child was a little boy who had cerebral palsy and beside him was his sister. In the most touching experienced I have witnessed in a long time, the little girl was feeding her younger brother turkey and then wiping away the morsels from his mouth. She fed him with love, he embraced her back with giggles and both found joy where adults were stewing in the blues.
Now initially my sorrow wanted to wax into full blown dejection at the sight of what I perceived to be inequity, but then I looked at the two children and realized that they were both smiling. And it hit me, why can’t I be like them? Why let my circumstances define me, why not be like these blessed angels before me and define my circumstances instead? I think this is why Yeshua says that we must be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven; it’s only when we are grateful regardless of life’s blows and arrows that we find the heaven of living in the moment.
It was these two children that made me change my outlook on this day and to be honest even made me change my outlook on Thanksgiving as a whole. There was a time as a child that I loved this holiday; then at some point in life I started to rebel against the idea of Thanksgiving in light of the injustices that were visited upon those who inhabited this land before us.
But what would it accomplish exactly if I gave in to the feeling of anger and rebelled against this day? Would my indignation undo the injustice of the past or feed a Native American child who languishes in North Dakota? Or should I give thanks as I give remembrance and pay respect to those who made it possible for me to be fed in my hardship where others would have perished.
This is the essence of this day for me I guess. The same way my indignation cannot undo the trail of tears that Native Americans walked on their way to nullification neither can my dejection change a wit of the malfeasance that arrived at my doorsteps not too long ago. While we should not forget the past, tis best to not get caught in the gravity of yesterday and lose the present and tomorrow in the process.
Not too long ago, I used to go Thanksgiving shopping and not think twice of the person ringing a bell in front of a Safeway as I threw him change and went about my way utterly disconnected from the plight of the person in front of me. The other day as I was riding my bike to Safeway, that same scene took place with someone ringing a bell to collect change in front of the store. Except this time around, I knew exactly who that person was, he was no longer a theory, his life story—and the story of endless others—is now forever a part of me.
My experiences over the past 20 months have taught me exactly how we as human beings are interconnected and intertwined, no longer is injustice a theory, the statistics I once read about are human beings right in front of me. But these same souls have taught me to defy life’s circumstances and find joy where most would have been broken or sulked into silence. Through it all, I know and have faith in my heart that there is a reason for what I have seen and experienced these last two Thanksgivings. I just pray to God that I find a way to care for people without taking on their brokenness. I pray that God grant me the wisdom to love myself as I give to others.
Just like the two children I sat next to a few hours ago, I shall defiantly keep smiling even if the world is busy trying to rob me of it. May I feed others yet, like the little boy’s sister, still find happiness instead of letting the injury of others injure me. It’s been a long journey, from Virginia, to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Iowa, to South Carolina, to New York to Colorado, I’ve traveled a long trail but where tears fell I also found the essence of humanity’s kindness and God’s grace. Hardships were many, but I’ve kept my smile and I still have the ability to make others smile. In the throes of uncertainty I have retained my ability to remain thankful through it all.
I give thanks above all that, as I find meaning in life’s uncertainties and turbulence, that somewhere out there is someone else who can find hope through my experiences. During times of abundance, it is easy to be ungrateful, it is precisely during the moments of distress that thankfulness is needed the most. Egzyaber amlake, amesegenalew : God my Lord I thank you:: #Soul2Soil
Hardships are testimonies waiting to be birthed through patience and perseverance
~ This is an excerpt from “Soul to Soil” , which can be found on Amazon and will soon expand to other distributors. Thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey, butterflies emerge from caterpillars through cocoons—the struggle is what gives wing to our aspirations. Click on picture below to get a preview of “Soul to Soil” on Amazon.com ~
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
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