Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love focusing on the many blessings in my life, and sharing good food with family. That said, my most memorable Thanksgiving did not take place in a home or around a table.
My senior year in college, I had a fall semester internship at the Juvenile Evaluation Center outside of Asheville, NC. This was essentially a prison for youth who had been arrested for stealing, assault, or worse. Many of the kids were from the inner-cities of North Carolina. My particular internship was with the camping program. This was for youth who had demonstrated good behavior and a willingness to learn better habits and skills.
The program was challenging: extensive hiking and backpacking, as well as rock climbing and horseback riding. Most of the boys and girls were out of their element in nature—in this case, the remote areas of the Blue Ridge mountains—so this was a great chance for personal growth. If they completed the program successfully, they could go home.
I went out on the trail every other week for two and a half days, and aside from enjoying the beautiful mountains, it was a time of personal growth for me, as well. (I have a great story about my first rock climbing experience, but that will be a post for another day!) My shift landed on Thanksgiving that year, which bummed me out—I would have preferred going home with a good friend and sharing the day with her family. As it turned out, my experience was serendipitous.
We were hiking several miles to our campsite, and stopped for lunch beside the trail. The regular counselors and the kids had food of some kind provided, but I always brought my own supplies. As I sat on a rock and had a can of cold vienna sausages and some bread and cheese, I began to reflect. I was sitting amid stunning scenery; I was fortunate to have family and friends who loved me; I was getting a college education; I had a warm place to sleep at night; and good food every day. So many blessings!
This was in sharp contrast, I’m sure, to many of the kids in the program. Did they grow up having warm beds at night? An intact family? Nourishing food? Spiritual support? My guess is: probably not.
These realizations shifted my perspective. I didn’t miss the turkey and trimmings at all. I gave silent thanks and thought, “This is the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.”
And you know what? It’s still true.
Thank you for stopping by. Have a wonderful holiday!