What I’m Thankful For

The Six Things I’m Thankful For This Year

I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with stuffing and mashed potatoes this year. Nope, this year I’ll be heading to work like it’s a regular Thursday. So, I’m writing this post to acknowledge this important day in America.

I don’t like to set Thanksgiving apart from any other day of the year, because it’s important to be grateful for life and all it has to offer on a daily basis, but nevertheless, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. Although the history of the holiday may be rooted in horror, I appreciate what it stands for today. I appreciate that it is a holiday that started on a negative note and is now, hopefully, only seen as a positive thing—people getting in quality time with family and giving thanks for what they have in their lives. America- go easy on the shopping and the Black Friday deals.

In celebration of this day of giving thanks, I’ve thought up a couple of the things that I’m especially grateful for at this juncture in my life. Here I am, 91 days into a new life, and I’m taking the time to evaluate what exactly at this unique time I’m thankful to have, be a part of, or share my time with.

My Four

Far and away, the thing that I’m most grateful for in my life is my class, my four. A year ago I never would have imagined my life would be where it is today. I could never have guessed I’d be heading my own classroom in a developing country this time last year. Come to think of it, I don’t think I could have ever conceived of what my life has become. Now, I’m learning more about teaching, Guyana, pre-teens, myself, and life in general each day than I ever have before. Having the sole responsibility of educating four little minds is a privilege I didn’t realize I should be grateful for until a few weeks into my teaching experience.

My four boys have kept me on my toes everyday since August when the term began. There are good days and there are bad days, but not a single day goes by that I’m not challenged by the four of them. I swear, they huddle up before I arrive each day and decide who will be the troublemaker for the day. Despite this though, despite the troubles that come with them simply being boys living their childhoods out in an orphanage, they continue to be a blessing. I give thanks for them.

 My Community

I almost feel likes it’s cheating to count the community I live in as something I’m grateful for, because it’s a given, but I can’t help but state it again. I live with three strong-minded, kind, genuine, intelligent, amusing women. Together, we’re enduring the trials and tribulations of being white fish out of water. Everyday we lean on each other. I take that back—everyday we apply every ounce of our weight to each other’s shoulders, and everyday we make it work. We share every corner of this experience with each other. We swap stories, we share confusions and complaints, we laugh at and with each other when necessary, normally to lighten the mood.

Our community of four has been close since we met in March, before we were even officially assigned to live in a community with each other. Now, three months in to living together and nine months in to knowing each other, we represent a different kind of strong, a more intelligent strong, a weathered strong. I hope this is making sense. The gist of it is, I’m thankful for the three women I live with. This Guyanese experience would be a fraction of what it is today without them. We need each other to keep one another sane, to justify our confusions and disappointments in this puzzling country.

Thought

This may be an odd thing to be thankful for, but I’m taking the time to offer up a prayer of thanks for my brain and the many paths that it takes me on everyday. One of my students is a daydreamer. Sometimes I even refer to him as “dreamer” when he isn’t paying attention. I mean no offense by calling him this name. In fact, I mean it as a compliment. Why are we all not bigger dreamers? I use this student as a springboard for my own daydreaming and random thinking. On my bus ride to work every morning, there’s a particular stretch of road that transitions me from the bustle of Georgetown to the farmland just outside of Plaisance. Here, once most of the other passengers have disembarked, I like to allow my mind to drift away a little bit. It’s a period of time when I can let my guard down, when I know nobody is looking to snatch my bag. It’s a period of time when I can look out the window, take a couple of deep breaths as I watch the horses and long grass wisp by on my right, or the graffiti of the seawall flash by on my left, and remember where I am and what I’m doing here. I treasure the opportunity to let my mind drift.

It’s this stretch of land between the city and the villages of the country, that remind me every week day to be thankful for the human brain, that it’s programmed to meander in thought when it isn’t preoccupied doing something else. I’ve managed to stave off boredom almost entirely since I was a teenager since I realized this. I digress. Even in the difficult times, when the power is out, when I’m covered in sweat after working out and the water in my home is shut off, when the mosquitoes are eating me alive at my dining room table, I let my mind drift. I carry myself away to future endeavors that I hope to pursue or think about what in my life is going right and—perhaps more importantly—what I’d like to tweak a little in order to create a happier existence. Yes, I’m thankful for my thoughts this Thanksgiving. They are, indeed, the ultimate escape.

 The First World

I know it’s technically called “the developed” world now, but as I become more acquainted with what life in a “developing” country is like, I feel the need to refer to it as the first world. Straight up, calling it the first world is calling it out for what it is. It’s a place of privilege. It’s the land of constant electricity, full grocery store shelves, and Black Friday sales. It’s a land of wastefulness, greed, and insecurity. This leads me to the fifth thing that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving: the Third World. Again, I’m calling it like I see it (and how I’m experiencing it). It’s “the Third World” because when it rains, it floods the entire street, right up to your doorstep. It’s the Third World because when you’re a woman and you walk down the street, you get to listen to the never ending cat calls about how sexy you are, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s the Third World because there’s an endless well of hopelessness that seems to be tapped into on a consistent basis.

Today, I’m grateful for these opposing places. Each one is now engrained in me. Since I live in the third world, it’s currently holding more weight than it otherwise would, and since I’ve lived in the first world nearly my entire life, I’m in the unique position to compare the two. I’m thankful for what my life has been and what my life is now. I’m also looking ahead to the coming months and years and am thankful simply for the opportunity to be in a position where I can look ahead. Being in the Third World is giving me the chance to appreciate what it is I love about the First World. The simple pleasures, the material things that I take for granted on a daily basis—I’m grateful for the conveniences they grant me. The progression of social issues, like the freedom to marry, I’m thankful for those. Guyana is a socially and politically troubled place. As messy as American politics may seem at times, I’m thankful for the system we currently have in place. And, most importantly, I’m thankful for how lucky I was to be born in America. It’s easy to look at birth as a simple roll of the dice. I was lucky to have been born at all, but even more amazingly, I happened to be born in one of the wealthiest countries on the globe. I could just as easily have been born Guyanese. Living in the Third World has taught me to be grateful for each privilege I’ve been granted, and to embrace those parts of me that make me unique.

The Third World makes me thankful for all of the things that I have in the First World, but it also has a few other key points that am consistently grateful for. For example, I love the simplicity of living here. Although they’re sometimes pushy when they’re driving their cars, the Guyanese are a kind and welcoming community of people. The Third World is a step back in time. It’s something that has changed who I am to the core. There’s no going back to who one used to be after having lived in the undeveloped world, not unless, of course, you’re choosing to ignore how the world works outright. More tales about why I’m thankful for Guyana and the developing world in general lie ahead in future posts on this blog…

You! 

Okay, I’m getting cheesy on purpose, but it’s the truth. I’m thankful for you, you who have taken the time to read this blog post. You, who have been following my tale in Guyana closely or sporadically, I’m grateful that you take the time out of your life to learn about mine. Since August, I have felt nothing but overwhelming support from each person who has taken the time to read my blog. So, thank you, you’re appreciated, you’re loved, and I’m thankful for you!

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

About mattylife

"And no one is a stranger...for long."
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2 Responses to What I’m Thankful For

  1. Larry says:

    Keep the posts coming. I’m thankful for them.

  2. Bill and Ann Guiffre says:

    We are thankful for YOU, Matthew, and all your beautiful insights of your present world. We need these thought s to remind us how many people like you are making a difference. We love you and are proud of you.Thanksgiving was cool here in S.C., but we have much to be thankful for. Love,Gramma(and Grampa, who is off signing books!)

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