Thanksgiving is upon us, and as this is my favorite holiday of the year, I wanted to talk to my English students about not only the American celebration but also the concept of thankfulness.
In one particular class, I have students from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.
Some have been in the United States for many years, and some have only recently arrived. Quite a few spent years in refugee camps in very difficult circumstances before making their way to the U.S., and some have experienced war first-hand.
Nonetheless, the concept of thankfulness came easily, and when I asked the students to discuss in small groups some of the things for which they are thankful, the classroom was full of chatter as the students named the special things in their lives.
The things for which we are thankful bind us together as humans.
“I am thankful for life,” said a middle-aged, quiet-spoken woman from Bhutan.
“I am thankful for English class, all my teachers at LSS, and for my family,” said a young mother from Guatemala.
“I am thankful for my God, my English teacher, the U.S.A., the U.S. government, my family, and my life,” said a mother of seven from the Ukraine.
“I am thankful for my family,” said a young mother from Iraq. Her choice was especially poignant as she told me once that her mother was killed when a bomb hit her house during the fighting that ensued from the U.S. invasion. Her six-month-old baby was also severely injured in the explosion, causing him to be permanently wheel-chair-bound and his development to be impaired.
As I listened to the women’s stories, I found myself wondering at the human ability to be thankful despite difficult situations. It is a profound example of the human ability for resilience.
What is also striking is the similarities in response among all people. If I had asked this question to a group of non-immigrants and non-refugees, I would have received mostly the same answers: thankful for life, family, education, and God.
This is what I’m most thankful for this year: the understanding that all people, despite their age, circumstances, or culture, are the same when it comes to the things that are most important to them. It is refreshing to be reminded that we all want safe and happy families, friends, education, and life. Let us work daily toward this realization for all people.
Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson