Every year on Thanksgiving, in between backyard games of spud and plates piled high with mashed potatoes and strawberry mush pie, my family passes around a composition book. Its cover is bound in a paper grocery bag and adorned in doodles, and at the top it reads “Thankful Book” in my mom’s block print. The first entry is dated to 2005, and since then its pages (wide ruled, I believe) have been filled with words of gratitude and reflection.
I can remember flipping through the Thankful Book and struggling to read my aunts and uncles’ cursive script while trying to decide what to include in my own entry. I will admit, to my own dismay, that I managed to escape writing in the Thankful Book on more than a couple Thanksgiving afternoons. I knew I had plenty to be thankful for, but the dessert table and my cousins out back were calling to me, and I couldn’t find the words. This year, the words are coming easier. So, from across the Atlantic in Kedougou, Senegal, here’s my 2015 Thankful Book entry.
I’m thankful for the roof over my head and bed under my bum, and for nutritious meals and water I don’t have to think twice about drinking, and for the ability to write this entry and to have people who care enough to read it. I’m thankful, as my mom always says, to have everything I need and most of what I want. I’m thankful to have won the birth lottery, because when you add up all those thankfuls they amount to a life overflowing with opportunity and possibility— a life I did nothing to deserve yet was lucky enough to be born into.
But really what I’m thankful for this year is to know. I’m thankful to know that everything I’ve been given— security, health, education, family— are not givens. They’re not handed out like business cards at a meeting or flyers at a fair. They’re irreplaceable and precious. So so precious. And the weight they carry, the influence they have on you and me, is sometimes hard to see. It’s hard to see that the math final you have to study for and your mom telling you to clean your room are precious. Cause they don’t always feel precious. But they are. And I’m thankful to know that.
This year, I’m thankful to know.