There’s Much to Celebrate

No mortar and pestle? That's fine. Use a rock for crushing spices.

No mortar and pestle? That’s fine. Use a rock to crush spices for the turkey.

Thanksgiving for me this year took on an entirely new form. If you would have asked me a year ago what Thanksgiving meant to me, my likely response would probably have consisted of something like time with family, food, and football. Which are all great things, and yes I am thankful for them, but those things mean so much more then the empty containers I use to put them in.

For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I was thankful for the food on the table yesterday. As a YAGM family we prepared an entire Thanksgiving feast together. It wasn’t grandma and mom slaving in the kitchen all day as I sat lazily in the living room watching football. It took all ten of our combined gifts and talents as a whole family to provide a meal for each other.

We found family in each other, and even maybe a new way to define what family really is. Not to say our families 8,000+ miles away weren’t in our thoughts or prayers, but for most if not all of us, we found a deep comfort in each other i’m not sure we were expecting to find.

It was a great reminder for me of how much we really truly have to be thankful for everyday. I desperately hope I can remember to thank God each and everyday for the things, people, and beauty he has brought into my life. And I don’t need a special day to remember where it all comes from in the first place. Happy Thanksgiving from South Africa!!

The Great Thanksgiving

Kyle shares about his journey and Thanksgiving away from home:
Communities do many things: support, nurture, annoy, complicate, love. I’ve¬†seen examples of all of these during my time here. On my little YAGM island in Soweto, the complications can loom larger than other positive aspects and make it hard to see the beauty all around me. Thankfully, our program had a retreat over Thanksgiving that motivates the title of this blog and brought ‘Gratitude’ to the front of my mind (as Rachel has beautifully tattooed on her arm). We had a wonderful time in Pietermaritzburg and Lesotho, but even before the retreat, Alex and Jen visited me in Soweto. Our three placements are wildly different, and I was blessed to have them around for a couple days to show them the sites and sounds of South Africa’s largest township. They reminded me of so many blessings I’ve had handed to me and friendships I’ve built around here, and I couldn’t help but smile at the wonder on their faces around every turn.
Kyle carves one of the Thanksgiving turkeys

Kyle carves one of the Thanksgiving turkeys

Another thing that community impacts is control. When we were cooking our Thanksgiving meal, I worked really hard not to hover over everything that was happening in the kitchen. You can ask anyone at Tessa’s house though, I was definitely stressed. This was for two reasons. One, I really wanted everything to turn out delicious for our group and I found myself making stuffing and carving the turkey (two rather important things I’ve never done before). Secondly, and more surreptitiously, I realized how attached I am to the way things happen in my family for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite part of the holidays. I love the way my family does Thanksgiving, and as I watched dishes being whipped up differently than I would have done them (while sweating over my potential failure), I was hurting that I couldn’t hold on to the comfort of normalcy. Then something amazing happened‚Ķeverything turned out absolutely delicious. Nothing went wrong despite all my worrying. In fact, I played a much smaller role than my ego would like me to think. And even better, I got to taste life from other traditions, and everyone had something special to contribute. It’s impossible to compare to any other Thanksgiving I’ve had, but it really was a Great Thanksgiving. Not just from the awesome food, but the people, the conversation, the many gifts around, everything about it was incredibly special. And so I left with a new understanding of this year of service, new goals in mind, and deeper friendships than I had mere days ago.