In the course of my journeys over the past several months, I’ve come to see how blessed I am. That word, blessed, is one that is not often used by my friends, for it often implies the hand of a divine entity, whose existence most of my friends do not acknowledge, preferring instead to use a more neutral word like “lucky”, which merely implies chance. I too, am not religious, and do not claim to know whether God does, or does not, exist. But I feel the word blessed is appropriate for how I feel, because it reminds me that life often is influenced by circumstances other than random chance, and while these circumstances may not have divine sources, they still deserve gratitude nonetheless.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to say thanks to all that I am grateful for.
For starters, I am grateful for my parents, for having me and raising me in this world, and whether by intent or accident, shaping me into who I am today.
I am also grateful for my few, but supportive friends who have provided me with incredible emotional and logistical support over these past several months. Specifically, I’m grateful to Nikki, for encouraging me to follow my dreams and passions. I am grateful to Harold, for collecting my mail all these months, and for lending me a couch on numerous occasions. I am grateful to Joyce, for letting me use her home as a giant mailbox and accepting a small mountain of materiél on my behalf. I am grateful to Josh, for his couch, for his advice, and also for his help raising my hut. I am grateful to Keith and Stephanie, for opening up their home to me, and offering me a home away from home. I am also tremendously grateful to my broader network of friends, who I have relied upon for emotional support during some of my darker moments in recent months.
Though it is easy to forget, living on vacant undeveloped land made me grateful for all the technology that we have available. I am grateful for the fact that I can own a vehicle that has allowed me to affordably travel tens of thousands of miles in several months. I am grateful for affordable solar power, for refrigeration, and for efficient battery-powered tools and appliances. I am grateful for the internet, which has allowed me to stay connected with friends and family, and for giving me a medium through which to share my story with a much bigger audience than I could in person.
Last but not least, I am grateful to this country, and to all the men and women who made this country what it is. While admittedly not without its faults, few countries, past or present, have ever offered the individual so many opportunities and freedoms. Close to 9 years ago, I landed at LAX, with nothing more than a couple of bags, a laptop, and less than $10,000 in cash. I started taking classes at a community college, then worked my way up to eventually get a degree from a world class institution, and a job at one of the most coveted companies in the industry, if not the world. This is a country where people come to fulfill their dreams. I came. I did.
While there is much to be grateful for, it is also important to acknowledge that there are many who are less fortunate, and that there is more work to do. Today, there are countless millions who suffer from lack of food, lack of shelter, lack opportunities and freedoms. We are closing our borders to those who wish to join our ranks of dreamers. Budget cuts affecting public education are increasingly closing doors to those who aspire for a better future. Lack of adequate health care threaten the well-being of many. Our disregard for the environment damages the world in which our children and grandchildren will live. So while we say thanks for all that we have, I hope we can take a moment to reflect on our obligations to our friends, our neighbors and our children, to help create a world in which they, too, can share in all that we are grateful for.