Before we get into this post, I just wanted to say a big thank you to Emily for writing this post. If you haven’t check out the other two post in this series, go ahead and check them out here: The One Thing I’ll Always Be Thankful For & 9 Days of Thankfulness. Make sure to leave a comment for Emily, and also Happy Thanksgiving!
Tomorrow, many Americans will sit around their table with family and friends and feast on fine foods. The cooks will run around and stress until the last dish of food is placed on the table and the guests begin to enjoy their food. The teenagers will pout because Auntie stuck them at the kids’ table with the messy toddlers and obnoxious younger cousins. The living room will be a frenzy of fans screaming over touchdowns and field goals. Some families will observe very different traditions from others.
One thing that is common for many Americans on this day of food and football (other than turkey, duh), is to reflect on what they are thankful for, whether it be sharing around the dinner table or processing it internally as you drift off into a food-induced coma.
Up until a few years ago, I struggled to name what I was thankful for when it came to my turn to share at my family’s dinner. I always just said that I was thankful for the food, or some generic thing like that. I knew I was blessed, but I think I took a lot for granted. This all changed with my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic. If you read my blog, Tea Addicts Anonymous (teaaddictsanonymous.com), you know that mission work has been a huge part of my life over the past three years. If you don’t read my blog, I will say it now: mission work has changed my life for the better.
It may sound cliché, but being a missionary has changed my views on absolutely everything. It was the pure joy and gratefulness of people with absolutely nothing (material-wise) that taught me not only how to be grateful for what I had, but how much I really had to be thankful for. Of course, blessed humans like myself to take the little things for granted, but what I took for granted was quite major.
At the time of my first mission trip, I was 16 years old. I was in high school, and let me tell you, at that point, I hated high school. Every day, I hated waking up early and sitting through seemingly unimportant classes with a ton of clowns (who often happened to be spoiled rich clowns since I was attending a prep school). I was so annoyed that I was being forced to go to a high school with such a challenging curriculum, whereas many other local high schools had programs made it easy for students to breeze through with minimal effort. It was not until my next trip the summer after I had graduated high school that I realized how lucky I actually was.
The teenagers that we work within the Dominican Republic would bring their report cards to some of the missionaries to show their “good grades.” Since my competency in the Spanish language was much more minimal at that time, I saw As and Bs and congratulated the students. What I did not realize was that the attendance for several of the kids was only about 20%, meaning they only actually showed up to class about once a week. Learning this was really disturbing to me because that meant that the kids can simply be pushed through the system without really learning much.
The education that I had been so bothered by was a dream for so many kids in this world who just want to learn how to read and write. From that point forward, I never once took for granted my education. I have been so blessed to have gone to such a great high school, which opened up a world of opportunities when it came to college.
Another thing that really bothered me during my early teens was my parents’ constant criticism of my clothing. Whether they thought my shirt was too tight or my shorts were too short, I felt like they were constantly being “mean” to me. I became quite grateful for this after an experience in the Dominican Republic. A couple of sisters we worked with were prostitutes. These girls both started selling their bodies when they were around eleven or twelve years old, totally against their will. They were forced to do this by their father and older brother who pimped them out. The older of the sisters is now about sixteen and is dying from AIDS. While AIDS is manageable in the United States and other civilized countries, the access to adequate health care is not available to this girl.
Their father not only pimped these two young girls out but had forced his two older daughters (one who is the same age as me) and wife into the same type of work. My parents were “mean” to me with the intentions of having my young body shielded from lustful eyes, whereas this father forced his young children to sell their precious bodies to men. I was protected while they were totally exploited by the person they should have been able to trust the most.
Many other “first world problem” have become so insignificant to me since I have learned to be more thankful for all of my blessings. I no longer complain if for whatever reason I have to take a cold shower. I try to be more patient with slow wifi. I take the parking spot that is further away since I have two legs that work magnificently and there are others who would appreciate the closer spot more than I. I do not get angry over the little things, like somebody trying to pass me on the busy highway because my day could be much worse. I don’t whine over my broken car radio because I am grateful that I even have a car to drive to school or work (and because I have a voice to sing my own songs).
Even during rough times, I have so much to be thankful for. So tomorrow (and every day), take a moment to truly reflect on all of the good in your life, rather than the things that trouble you. Sometimes blessings are in complete disguise. Try a little hard to see how truly blessed you are and try a lot harder to never take these blessings for granted.
Go ahead and check out Emily’s blog: Tea Addicts Anonymous