Today is Thanksgiving, and I have a lot to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for my mother and father who, despite hard times, worked their hineys off to shape me into an independent minded, thoughtful, and persistent person. Throughout my adult life they have continued to believe in me, even when they might not have always agreed with the direction I’ve chosen. I don’t think I really understood the huge task they undertook, until I embarked on it myself. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without their guidance.
I’m thankful for my Grandmother Martel, who passed away a couple of years ago. She was a tough cookie with a razor sharp wit, who began writing a book about her life years after her children left the nest. The result, a book called “Senility, I Love It”, is a collection of stories and lessons learned that span from the birth of her first child (my father) to my early childhood. She taught me that you can really do anything, if you set your mind to it.
I’m thankful for my other Grandmother, Gabrielle. I called her Mimi. She immigrated here from France post-WWII, married an American Serviceman, and embarked on a life that few who grew up in an orphanage in post-WWI Europe could ever have imagined. She finished college after her children, but spent her time after college enriching the lives of children in the Delta of South Arkansas, bringing an appreciation of art to people who lived in a state of dire poverty and want. She taught me that giving is perhaps the most important thing you can do with your life.
I’m thankful for my brother Michael. A gifted and imaginative young man, Mike and I spent our childhood exploring what could be, and have continued that exploration through our adult life. Mike taught me the lesson of dogged determination. Like most siblings, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we recognized that we were in this experience called life together, and no matter what the circumstances, we could make it through. Even though Mike lives thousands of miles away, every day I feel his presence in my life.
I’m thankful for my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and other family members, scattered around the world. The lessons I’ve learned from them are too many to list, but mostly I learned from them the importance of having a support system. Even though we’re not as close as we once were, I love them dearly and appreciate their contribution to helping make me the man I am today.
I’m thankful for all the friends, teachers and influencers, many of whom have come and gone through my life over the passage of years. Scattered across this great country of ours, each one of them has, in their own way shaped, informed and guided me. Their contributions have enriched my life, and brought me experiences that I never would have had otherwise.
I’m thankful for the extended family of friends I’ve made since I moved to Memphis. Their support and guidance has challenged me to become the person I’ve always wanted to be. They’ve seen me through the trials and tribulations of the past seven years and supported me the whole way. They adopted me unconditionally and helped open doors that I never would have been able to open on my own. I’m thankful for their friendship, and the trust they’ve placed in me.
Finally, I’m thankful for my beloved Ellyn and Frances. 27 months ago I couldn’t imagine the impact they would have on my life.
Frances has taught me the importance of being there, fully invested in the future. A creative and sometimes rambunctious child, Frances is confounding and stubborn, caring and considerate, and full of life and love. She’s developed, from a toddling two year old into a boisterous and vibrant five year old (she turns five next week). Every day I look forward to what she’ll do, learn or say next. I never thought being a parent would change me quite the way it has. Thank you Frances, for all the joy and light you have brought to my life. Watching you grow up, being a part of your life has given me more than I ever could have imagined.
Ellyn has grounded me, and helped me find my way through the transition from bachelor small businessman to student, advocate, parent and partner. Her unconditional love has strengthened me and given me the confidence to embark on a path that is fraught with uncertainty. Her passion for giving and helping the less fortunate has inspired me. Her desire for justice is unshakable. Despite the challenges of everyday life, we work as a team, tackling those challenges. Hand in hand, we navigate this world, not knowing what may lie around the next corner, but certain of our love and support for each other. Certain that we can make a positive impact on the world around us. I can’t imagine where I would be today without her love, guidance, and support. I look forward to every day, and the everyday events that enrich our lives. Together. Forever.
None of us travel through this world alone. We travel in the company of friends, acquaintances, and people we may never come into contact with. We live our lives often never comprehending the full impact we have on the lives of those directly around us, and those we may not have any direct contact with. While this presents certain challenges, we live life together.
On this Thanksgiving Day I challenge everyone to consider their impact on the world unseen. Consider the things we may neither recognize or understand. And know that through it all, we are all in this together.