Reflecting on Thanksgiving – What are you Thankful for?

The official “Thanksgiving Holiday” comes around on the fourth Thursday of every November and we all look forward to it with great expectations of feasting with family and friends.

As we sit at the dinner table we are expected to say what we are “thankful” for and at that time we come up with many clichés and sometimes very glib answers. Some of us are shy and we just say something quickly so that we can be away from the spotlight.

What happens during the remainder of the year? Do we ever stop and take the time to really think about life and how thankful we should be for the very air that we breathe?: the life that we have and the miracles that we experience every day?

Image from Google

Where and how do we begin to list all the things that we should be thankful for? If only we can recognize all the bounties that have been bestowed upon us, then we would be much more appreciative. The fact that we have been blessed to be alive for one more day is reason enough to be thankful.

Yet, we take so many things for granted. If only we can look around us and see the suffering of so many all over the world, I am sure our outlook would be greatly improved. If we see someone without hands, then we may appreciate our own hands and all the things that we do with them to help ourselves and our families.

If we see a blind person trying to make their way around, then we will be appreciative of our ability to see and try to make the best of our circumstances. Instead we tend to complain about little inconveniences and we take everything for granted.

We eat three square meals and we complain that it was not cooked properly or that we did not have something special to drink along with our meals. What would we do if we do not get a meal in three or four days?  This is the reality of so many people in famished countries or war torn parts of the world.

Not everyone is equal and for those of us who have many of the amenities of life, we should take the time to be grateful and also take the time to share with those who are less fortunate. We should not only be thankful at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, but we should be thankful for everything that we have every day of every year.

Image found on Google

Above all, we should be thankful for family and friends with whom we can enjoy our meals and homes, and we should for ever be looking for ways to help those less fortunate than ourselves. For it is only in sharing that we can truly appreciate what we have been blessed with and be truly thankful.

Education and Empowerment

A famous quote by Mahatma Ghandi on Education:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever!”

When we educate our women and our youths we are ensuring a better and brighter future and a nation that will succeed through thick and thin.

In the developed countries of the world, many of us take the opportunity to get an education for granted and do not make use of the facilities that are available to us. In some countries, the lives of women are threatened if they try to get an education.

Take for example the fourteen year old girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head and left for dead because she dared to speak out and ask for her right to an education. Today she is in one of Britain’s most prestigious hospitals fighting for survival. Why? Just because she wanted an education!

Meanwhile many of our youths cut classes and do not enroll in College when it is so easily accessible.

The phrase that it takes a community to raise is child, is also applicable to educating a child. The five hours that a child spends in school daily should not be the beginning and ending of his or her educational pursuits. The learning should start from home. Please do not get mad at me, when I say this, because many will claim that they are uneducated and cannot read and write especially many immigrants.

Let me relate a little true story. My mother was illiterate. She could see her name in Huge Neon signs and would not know it. But she had a reverence for Education and instilled a love of learning in all eight of her children. If she was having a hard time getting us to brush our teeth, she would say something like:

“Would you like your breath to smell bad when you speak with your teacher?”

As soon as we got home she would ensure that we had a little snack and insisted that we complete our homework.

There was one incident when I was sick with the mumps and had a really high fever. My mother woke me up at 4:00 a.m. sponged me down with warm water and had me dress in my school uniform to take me to the LocalHealthCenter for treatment. Why so early you might ask? So that she could get ahead on line. The place opened until 7:00 a.m. but they used to put out number tags the night before.

We walked along the dark road as the world was still sleeping and I was a little scared as the dogs barked at us waking them from their slumber. When we got there, do you think we got the number one spot? No, there were already three people ahead of us. As soon as the Medec had treated me, my mother made sure I drank something (I could not eat or drink a lot because of my throat) and then she walked with me to get transportation to go to school. She never wanted us to miss school. So, even though she did not have an education she made a lot of sacrifices so that we could get one.

As parents whether single or not, we should try to inculcate a love of learning in our children. Working long hours and coming home to take care of a family is not an easy task, but we should always make our children’s education a priority. In my book “The Green Grass” I talk about “fighting” for the rights of our children. Please, do not get me wrong, I do not mean to “fight” in the literal sense. Do not go into schools and abuse the teachers because they are trying to discipline our children. Instead work with the school and the teachers and help to channel our children’s aptitudes so that they can be challenged to perform to their highest potential.

“You educate a man, you educate a man, you educate a woman you educate a Nation” by Brigham Young

Our children are the future of our nations. Educate them and we will have done our duty. Our women are the mothers of our children and if they are educated they will be able to make better choices and help our children to strive for success. It is a never ending cycle and one which can only lead to a more peaceful, harmonious environment where we can all benefit. Ties in perfectly with the quotes by Brigham Young and Nelson Mandela. 

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world!” by Nelson Mandela.

And Then Comes The Culture Shock

Leaving a very sheltered life where I was surrounded by family and friends to come to America, ALONE was like uprooting a giant oak from its roots and leaving it to flounder at the mercy of the elements.

There was tremendous culture shock with regards to the weather – when I saw the sunshine, I assumed it would be warm only to realize that in that I was no longer in a tropical country. In America, during the winter time, it can be extremely cold even though the sun is shining.

As any immigrant I am sure that it is scary, but as a FEMALE immigrant, it is way more than scary. It is intimidating and downright horrifying. Not only do you have to worry about finding a job and sustaining yourself, you also have to worry about SAFETY… as a single female, who had never lived alone or even been away from home for more than a weekend in the hospital, it was OVERWHELMING.

Below you will find a small excerpt from “The Green Grass” which goes into detail about my first experience with a new culture upon arriving to the USA. 

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I was leaving everything that was familiar and safe; and venturing into a great vastness of uncertainties. I felt like a huge oak that was being uprooted and thrown out into a turbulent sea to go as it would wherever the waters took it. This was my mindset as we touched down at JFK International Airport.

There was no more time for moroseness of self-pity. It was time for action! I had to be alert and ready to answer questions from the Immigration Officer. Was I anxious? You bet. I retrieved my suitcase and stood in line to face the man or woman who determine my fate.

My officer was a middle aged, short, semi balding guy who seemed kind enough. He was actually smiling as I approached. He asked me some routine questions as to where I was going and to stay and so on. Did I have anything in my suitcase that I should not have?

“How long do you plan to stay?” He continued.

“One month,” I replied.

“Would you be able to stay away from your family for that long?

“That I am sure about, I may want to run back after a few days.”

I think these were tricky parts in the questioning process and I tried to answer as best as I could. I really felt like I wanted to turn around right there and run back home. Lo and behold, he stamped my passport– he had given me six months to stay in the USA.

I now had to be checked by the customs officer who opened up my suitcase and took away some of the fruit that I had brought. My brother had gone through a whole of trouble to get these special delicacies for his son, unfortunately it was not meant to be.

I was very happy to see my nephew waiting for me beyond the ropes for visitors and as I was walking towards him, I heard someone saying,

“Miss, Miss, wait!”

I looked around and stopped dead in my tracks. The officer who just interviewed me was running after me. Oh my God, what was going to happen now? Was he going to take back the Visa? Was I going to have to go back home and hang my head in shame? He caught up to me and said,

“Oh Miss, you left your $40.00 on my desk.”

You were allowed to bring $40.00 Guyana dollars with you. Phew!! What a relief! But, what a way to enter America. This was the first of many kindnesses that were bestowed on me in this great land of America. There were so many rumors of people being very unkind and rude; that was dispelled in my first day there. This officer was just coming off duty and he realized that I had left my money there. He did not have to, but he took the time and effort to return it to me.

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Have you ever experienced Culture Shock? What was it like for you?

Leaving, Me?

In light of a fairly serious family emergency, I have opted to utilize a piece of my book for this week’s blog post. Happy Reading.

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Even if I live to be a hundred years old, I think this image would be as clear in my mind as it was today. It was a day filled with brilliant sunshine and I was standing in a big open playground, the wooden school building on my life, the sea dam on my right, and the leaves of lush, green trees blowing in the wind to the South.

I looked towards the fence and I saw my daughter, three years and 10 months old carefully making her way across an old log so that she could take the short cut to my school. Her brown uniform was smudged and her white shirt was no longer white as she has been cleaning furniture in preparation for Mashramani — Republic Celebrations in Guyana.

Suddenly she recognized me among the students who were playing in the field and she started to run towards me with her arms outreached, her face beaming! As I bent down to scoop her in my arms, I looked up to see my friend, Rachel, looking at me. With a tear running down her right cheek, she said, 

“I really do not know how you are able to do this.” before turning to walk back to the school building.

I picked up my little girl and I held her tight, savoring the moment, burying my head in her neck and fighting all inclinations to break down and weep.  As I looked toward the fence again, I saw my son running across the field also.

He was 10 years old and he was my little “man.” 

I bent down to hug him. He was too grown for me to pick him up, which is what I would really have liked to do. He looked at the way I was holding his sister and he said,

Have you told her yet, Ma?”

I could only answer with a shake of my head, as I was choking up with tears. He then said,

“Do not worry Ma, we will figure something out.” 

This picture was stamped in my brain and on my mind on Friday, February 19th, 1988. It was good that I could not see into the future and realize the numerous heartaches and turmoil that would engulf my family and me.

How do I explain the circumstances that led to this day?

I had a decent life — a husband, two kids and a good job teaching just a stone’s throw from where I lived. Being the youngest of eight siblings, with both my parents and five of my brothers living in the same village I was very sheltered. I was surrounded by a great network of family and friends who always looked out for me.

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Living in Guyana, I did have a good life. But I wanted to make it better — not for myself but for my family. That is why I opted to move to the United States. It took guts, years of sacrifice and more courage than I even knew existed. That courage has made me who I am today.