I am back in the U.S. for a while, spending my time between family and friends. And being ever thankful that I have these wonderful people in my life. Coming soon are posts about the surprisingly small amount of strange things I’ve found here in the land of the free, the Lyon trip post I’ve promised for about a month now, and maybe an excerpt from the Diary of C.M. Pine. That is, if I can find that thing…
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and to those of you who don’t celebrate either of those things, peace and love be with you.
This little bit of ADD is all about deep stuff. Just so’s you know.
We see a lot every year about how Christmas is so commercialized and how it brings out the worst in people. Every year some intellectual high school students, college kids and cynical adults,* all post on blogs, facebook, twitter and God knows what else, about this “new” fact. But guys. It’s freaking Christmas. No matter what people decide to do with it, I think it’s one of the most beautiful holidays we have. I get to sit down every year and see EVERYONE in my family. All. At. Once-ish. I get to say “I love you,” tell stories about how I’ve grown and hear stories about others. I get to give not just presents, but silent “I love you’s” to my family. I try to put myself into the gifts I give.
In fact, I’ve given poems or stories to more than one relative. And I think instead of critiquing these crazy super-shoppers, we should take a minute and feel something for them. Because what in God’s name is so important that you really have to tussle for it? Shouldn’t we take a minute and feel sorry for these people who don’t realize that what’s really important is thought and time? Not money or stuff. Thought and time. Somehow they’ve confused the too. They maybe think that this high-tech, high-demand video game is what their children need to be happy. But you know. I don’t think that’s it. Christmas morning, I’ll admit, I always hope for lots of presents. But. BUT. It’s not because I really, really want the stuff. It’s because I know that for each additional present under that tree, there’s five more minutes my family and I can be together and say nothing but “I love you.”
And you know. I don’t think anyone should ever be jealous. And I’ll be honest and say I can be a very jealous person. But think about it. A) the things that make other people happy are GOOD. Think about all those sources of love and security around you. What would you do without them? Why covet if that means taking that happiness from someone else? B) Why not start counting your blessings instead? I mean. Today, for instance, the sun rose. And as a consequence we had a sunrise, a sunset, wind, rain, that breath of warmth you get on your skin in spring, and life. Every day. I mean. Obviously, someone loves you. And isn’t that worth more than anything you could possibly be jealous of? Who else is going to get the sun to rise for the whole world everyday?
*obviously I’m overgeneralizing. LET THE ENGLISH MAJOR STYLE GUYS.
So last night I went to a great program called “La Cave” which is an international exchange program hosted by a catholic church and which takes place…wait for it…in an old olive cave. And when I say “cave” I do mean “cave.” This thing is really tight. It’s artificially made, but the place has to be hundreds of years old. I’m pretty sure there’s some gypsum seeping out of the walls. Wow. Tangent.
ANYWAY, they had their Thanksgiving dinner last night and as part of it they did two special things: 1) A friend of mine and I were asked to present on Thanksgiving to kind of explain what it’s all about. Because, as I said before, people outside the US really don’t understand. 2) Everyone was asked to write something they were thankful for on a post-it and then put it on the wall around a nicely-made turkey decoration.
And I was really struck by something. The girl I was siting next to wasn’t “croyant” which is a much more beautiful way of saying that she doesn’t really do the whole God/religion thing. And this is actually pretty common in France. Two world wars on your home turf really doesn’t help your faith in God. But what I found interesting was that she was like “I don’t know what to say on my post it.” And I just looked at her. Because for me, giving thanks is about as easy as breathing. I mean. Right now I’m awake, alive, have access to food and water, am in France, have a loving and largely healthy family…the list goes on. But it made me wonder if maybe there are a few things in religion that people miss out on when they skip it. Being thankful sounds strange to a “non-believer” because, well, who are you thanking? But being appreciative of what you have and recognizing what is truly wonderful in your life. That’s a wonder I don’t think people should skip on.
The French don’t really understand Thanksgiving. Nor do the Welsh or the English. And I’ll bet most of the world, but that’s all I’ve got to go off of. I mean, they get that it’s a time where you eat food and be thankful, but they don’t get it. Somehow this holiday is intrinsically American and as shocked by it as I am, I’m proud America. Because I think this holiday is our best out of all of them.
Thanksgiving for me has always meant two things: massive amounts of some of the best food of the year and time spent with my whole family. And by whole I mean both sides of my family cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the occasional boyfriend/girlfriend included. I come from a family where the time we spend on Thanksgiving is really about each other. Where we take a second to breathe and be together and think about just how lucky we are that we can do that.
I cannot express to you, or to anyone, how blessed I feel to have that. To have a family I know loves me. To have cousins who are my best friends too. Where even if you screw up, we say “we know. It’s okay. Will you let me help?”
And friends. I could sit here and name each one of them, but it would be too long. But you people who have helped me in ways you’ll never know. I’m thankful for that too.
I’m thankful for everyone I know. Because each in their own way has made me who I am, helped me through the hard (and the easy) times and given me the most beautiful experiences here. And I’m only 21 years old now. This wonderful adventure has hardly begun.
One thing I’m learning about being abroad is Home. If you’ve never left Home, then you’re like me back before I left mine for University. And that’s interesting to me because as a child I moved around quite a bit. I will never know what it’s like to stay in one place your “whole life” (aka, your childhood). But I never left Home as a child.
I know right? You’re probably thinking “say what?” But it’s true.
You see what I’m learning about Home is that it isn’t where you are that makes a Home. Walls make houses, but it’s the people inside the walls that make a Home. Home is where you are safe inside a bubble of love. It can be yours, your family’s, your friends’ but at the end of the day, it’s not the walls or the state or the country that make a Home.
It’s you. And who is with you.
I think that’s what they always meant by “Home is where the Heart is.” ‘Cause right now, I carry my Home with me. Like a backpack or a ribcage. It exists nowhere in space. Just where I am. Right there on the left side, two winks down from the shoulder. My Home is sitting right there in my Heart. And maybe that will change someday. But for now, that’s where I am.
And I’m glad. Because I can take it with me while I’m away.
Well. I’m packed. I’m in the car. I’m just about gone. Gone on an adventure whose twists, turns and bounds are unknown. I’m not scared. I’m not nervous. I almost wish I could be going to a frightening place in order to sympathize with the people who are going there. Or even the people who live there.
But one thing I do know about this. Whatever the outcome. Whatever experiences I have, whatever struggles (or facilities) I face, this is right.
There are things and people I don’t want to leave here, I’ll be perfectly honest. But no adventurer ever left with all his family and friends all around him the whole time. He learned to make new friends, to engage in other ways of thinking and doing and to conquer fear. The fear of leaving, of failing, of letting oneself or others down. I’m flying to a new and exciting place, whatever might happen.