Having an attitude of gratitude can change your life. So can contentment. When we pause to realize just how great we have it, and really appreciate it – it puts the BMWs in reverse. (bitching, moaning, and whining)
It’s Thanksgiving week! I love Thanksgiving…lots of great family time, good food and maybe a few board games and glasses of wine – without the extra crazy that Christmas brings with parties, events, and gifts.
Thanksgiving is that time that we often do pause to be grateful for what we have. It’s an incredible time of reflection before that aforementioned chaos of the next season hits…. often the day after Thanksgiving with Black Friday sales. Ugh.
Over the last few years I’ve been introduced to more opportunities to give back in powerful and meaningful ways – and it has planted a seed of contentment in my soul that cannot be replaced. When you get to experience what others do not have, it forces you to take a look at what you do have…and more often than not it reminds you of just how blessed you are.
My all-time favorite place to serve has been in Tijuana, Mexico where I was privileged to be chosen to help support our Global Partnership teams with Providence. In November of 2017 and then again in October of 2018 I went for a long weekend trip to help build small concrete homes for local residents of Tijuana. These were life changing trips for me – it changed the way that I see my own home, the way that I use water, and the way that I feel about having tortilla chips for breakfast. Seriously, have you ever tried chiliaqueles!?
Back on Thanksgiving of 2017 I journaled my thoughts via Facebook about that first trip, and wanted to share them again with you here.
This is not my typical Facebook status update; it’s more of a blog…but I don’t have a blog spot outside of work – so, this will have to do. You’ve been warned – scroll past if you’re uninterested, no hurt feelings.
Today is Thanksgiving, a day that we will eat much, enjoy the company of our family and friends and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for and the blessings the year has brought us. I too, will participate in these traditions, but this year I have a newfound perspective.
If you haven’t hidden me from your newsfeed, you saw that I recently embarked on a trip to Tijuana with some of my Providence colleagues to help build a home for a family there. The experience was humbling, incredibly gratifying, and gave me many moments of reflection that I feel compelled to share with anyone that will listen, or read in this case.
Stuff and Things. We have so many of them, and take so much for granted. Driving through Tijuana I saw the living conditions of many – nothing more than a shack for most, often with limited water supply, amidst poor infrastructure. The home that we helped build, was a mere 429 square foot footprint. And that family was over the moon about it. Over. The. Moon. The family and community members that we met were genuinely happy people – even without the new house on the horizon. You see, it’s not the size of the house that matters – but what we have in it, or rather WHO we have in it that matters.
Walls vs Welcome Mats. This week our family made a Target run to pick up a couple of things that we hadn’t already conveniently ordered through Amazon Prime. One of the items on our list was a Welcome Mat for our neighbors. It’ll sit on our front porch, but it’s really for them. They use the back door during the summers, and front door during the rainy season…which is all of non-summer in Portland. It says Welcome, as you’d expect – and we mean it! Welcome to our home – your family here; eat with us, drink with us, and share stories with us. In Tijuana I witnessed the ‘wall’ between the US and Mexico, the most un-neighborly barrier I can think of. You’re not welcome here. Don’t eat, drink, and share stories with us. Have we forgotten this is God’s country? We are simply here for a time.
Borders vs Bridges. We visited Casa del Migrante one evening and broke bread with men who were migrants, deportees, and refugees. I sat at a table with a man who had been deported from the US after 25 years; he left all of his immediate family behind in the US, all legal citizens. Another man, was going to be traveling back to his immediate family in Mexico after 9 years away. He had left his young family to work in the US, and send back money – but after 2 years was put in prison (for reasons he didn’t share). He was unable to get in touch with his family during that time…and after a 7-year sentence – he was sent back across the border and heading back to his hometown to surprise them. Today, I’ll travel across the Hood River Toll Bridge to partake in Thanksgiving festivities with family. There is a border between my house and theirs, yet there is also a bridge that connects the borders of our neighboring states where I can pay $1 and see my family whenever I please.
Prayer and Community. Clinica Las Memorias was a HIV/AIDS clinic that we visited one late afternoon. Here men, women, and children affected by the virus were cared for – as the stigma in the city still existed that being near someone with AIDS could infect you with the virus. While the facility was technically clean, it was in worse condition than any local building we would send our pets to for care. As we toured, we came across a man that was sitting outside in what appeared to be an IV chair, with his legs propped up, covered in a blanket, surrounded by flies, yet enjoying the sunshine. He was a new patient to the clinic, very weak, and had just started medication to better manage his condition. He desperately wanted his legs to work again – and seeing that there was one or more gathered – asked that we pray for him. And we did. Our eclectic group of 28 individuals from varying faith backgrounds and religious beliefs laid our hands on him, and one another, as a prayer was spoken over him. My limited Spanish could not translate the words that were sent to heaven that day, but I felt the presence of God in that community at the moment. Imagine the things that we can do together, in community with one another.
Years’ worth of enlightenment packed into a 5-day trip! I struggled with what I saw. Should I feel guilty for what I have? A big bird on the dinner table, surrounding by lots of material things, and abundant square footage? No. Instead, I’ll choose to be grateful and thankful each day. I’ll commit to being a good steward of my time, money and resources. Come tomorrow morning, amidst Black Friday shopping, I’ll need a reminder that I probably don’t need that door buster deal just because it’s on sale…
I came back home last week with a new understanding of global citizenship, and a call to not be complacent. I am no activist, and can’t pretend that I don’t have dozens of daily tasks that won’t get in my way of staying informed, engaged, and always thinking of others. But I can do something.
I’m determined to go back to Tijuana and volunteer with Esperanza. In fact, this holiday season I’ll do my best to convince my family and friends to join me on a long weekend trip of service and insight. And while I anticipate that journey, I’ll continue to give back to some of my favorite organizations that do good in our own global community.
Esperanza International – www.esperanzaint.org
Portland Rescue Mission for the Homeless –
Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Project – www.samaritanspurse.org
Refugee Care Packages in Portland, OR – www.refugeecarecollective.org
This Thanksgiving, I am incredibly grateful for my family, friends, and colleagues. They make my world go round, and remind me of what is truly important in life. Thank you for being one of my blessings.
There you have it. Gratitude and contentment is plenty for me with that experience under my belt. Our family continues to give back in small ways with great love! I encourage you to find an organization that you adore and give back however you can – whether it be time, money, or gifts of generosity. Get your kids involved too. Sharing what you have is the best bucket filler.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my voice with you.
Thank you for joining me on my journey to influence.