We all sat around two long tables in anticipation of our Thanksgiving feast.
“There is going to be so much food,” we were told over and over again. We were all bubbling with excitement. When our meals came, one thing stuck out to me. There was a lot of food, but there were also 33 of us to share it. The plates were evenly distributed but none of us had a lot.
I thought about my previous Thanksgivings. Although my family has never been one of those traditional sit-around-a-table-and-pass-the-green-beans kinds of families, we always have a feast. How many times had we gone home with six or seven Tupperware containers of leftovers? Huh, leftovers. A concept neither known nor really accepted here. Yes there are times when not all of the food in our bowl is eaten but we never throw it out or save it for another time, partially due to the fact we don’t have a fridge but also for cultural reasons. No, if you have extra food, that simply means someone else will get a meal. If we have food that could potentially feed someone who would otherwise go without, that is the priority. Some would call it generosity but here, we just call it normal. Everyone eats today. If that is achieved, it is a good day.
Through trying to explain this, I’ve found it almost impossible to explain how deeply rooted this is. What would an average normal American do if a beggar showed up at their door asking for food? As much as we would like to not believe it, they would probably just shoo them off. Not here. Here it is almost an expected part of the day. Whether it is some talibe kids, street kids, a mom with one too many mouths to feed, or elderly man with nowhere else to go, they will just stand at the door with their little ADJA bowls and wait. Without saying a word my host parents will usher them in, take the bowl, hand over what is left, hand it back to them and they will be on their way. Watching this on a daily basis is humbling. And yes, this is normal.
So now going back to our Thanksgiving dinner on the beach surrounded by the people I have come to know as friends I realize why this stuck out to me. We had enough. This is a concept I have learned to appreciate. Except for Tabaski, we always have just enough. And enough is all you need. Why in America do some eat like kings while others starve? If we were all satisfied with enough, no one would ever go hungry again.
I feel as though I have found the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Sitting there with my plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, delicacies we hardly see here, I am thankful for this meal. Sitting with my friends whom are beginning to feel more like family, I am thankful for these connections. When homesickness strikes or I just desperately need to vent in English, I know that these people will be here for me just like or more so than the family I have so far away. Not saying that my family isn’t supportive, but they could never understand what I, a young American girl living in a completely foreign country, am going through. Well not like this group does. Sitting on the beach, with the ocean waves crashing in the background, and the drummers playing the beat for the crazy dancers, I am thankful for being in a place as beautiful and exciting as this. Knowing I have a house in America, with a loving family waiting for me, friends that will always be there for me, and an education valued as gold here, I am thankful for being born into a family and society that allowed me to grow up in privilege and freedom. Having been able to realize that I am thankful for all that I have back home and how lucky I really am, I am thankful for this opportunity and all I have learned about myself and life in the past three months.
So here on Thanksgiving, try to remember why we actually celebrate this holiday, and no it is not just to eat. But also remember the motto “everyone eats today,” and try, even just for a day, to be satisfied with enough.