For my non-American friends and family, American Thanksgiving is all about appreciating the blessings in our lives and taking the time to cherish our loved ones. The day usually entails a massive dinner, centering around a Turkey and all its fixings (cranberry sauce, stuffing, vegetables, and if you’re lucky, a pie for dessert!) Although most African countries don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I was able to share this sort of family-centered day with my Ugandan family on Easter this past year. My Maama Murungi cooked an astounding meal- several chickens and enough potatoes to feed an army. I got to spend time with my little sisters as we celebrated our heavenly blessings, and even managed to bring them a chocolate bunny from the States. Even if we don’t celebrate the concept at the same time, I think every culture knows the value of putting time aside to be grateful for what we are given.
For me, this year is a harder Thanksgiving than most. Kam and I have been dating a little over a year now, and this year it’s frustrating not to have him with my family for the holiday, as he is still living in Uganda and I am back in the United States. He also had his official university commencement this week, and it was sad that I couldn’t be there to celebrate his great achievement. No one ever said long distance relationships would be easy! I do have hopes for later this winter, though, it’s possible that Kam may be able to visit here, or that I will be able to go and meet him in Europe.
Fortunately, even though this aspect of life has been frustrating, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy. For the moment I’m substitute teaching, and the work has allowed me to do the job that I love and meet some very interesting people. Some of the kids I work with are hilarious. The best thing I’ve seen this week is a student playing a digital version of trash ball. Remember throwing paper balls into the wastebasket, pretending you were a basketball star? Well, Apple has an app for that. Oh, technology.
As we enter the holiday season, the kids get wound up about gifts and parents worry themselves over decorations and gatherings, but we mustn’t forget the most important things. It doesn’t matter what the latest game on the iPad is, how many pounds of turkey you’ve eaten, or how tall your Christmas tree (or handcrafted menorah) is. Many families have an empty seat at their holiday table that not long ago seated a dear family member. The holidays bring about good memories and sad ones, but my goal this year is to really recognize the people I’m grateful for, including those who can no longer be with me. I may be a schoolteacher and not a millionaire, but my life is truly made rich by the people who have blessed my life with friendship, grace, and wisdom. Even in this digital age it can be hard to stay in touch across continents, but we are lucky to know that love can span oceans.