This has been a pretty tough year.
There was the epic drought that wreaked havoc on food and farmers, on house foundations and decades-old trees, even on my beloved perennial garden/therapy outlet.
There were the 100+ temperature days, on end, all summer long. And the difficulties of keeping 4 small children safe and entertained in that kind of heat.
There was the apocalyptic primary election of August 7th, which, here in Kansas, imperiled many of the investments and protections that are so important to our quality of life.
There was a usually bitterly-fought presidential election, with the unprecedented infusion of outside money that threatens to undermine our democracy, and the predictable turning off and tuning out of so many Americans, in response.
This is Thanksgiving week, so this is a thankful post.
And there is so much for which to be thankful.
- My students, who are really wowing me with their passion for policy change. When someone raises her hand in class to ask about sequestration, I think I have the best job in the world.
- My clients, who are kind enough to pay me for getting to come into their organizations to help them think about how to do advocacy, and how it can complement their work. When I get to sit down with a Board of Directors and help them envision a role for themselves in advocacy, I know I have the best job in the world.
- My kiddos, who, despite growing up way too fast, are the greatest thing in my life. I am so thankful for their questions, for their hugs, for their presence…and for the chance to get to grow up with them.
- Inspiring advocates, of all stripes–I am thankful for my former students who use Facebook to raise issues with their friends and families, for CEOs who post “If you were happy with your service here, please tell your representative” signs on their mental health center doors, for high school students who hold protest signs on the street corner by my house. Thank you for being a fellow companion on this journey, for standing up for what you believe in, and for inspiring others’ advocacy, too.
- Good childcare, because I cannot imagine walking out the door for work while worrying about whether my kids will be happy and safe. No parent should ever face that quandary.
- Lake Superior, which is the most wonderful place I can ever imagine, and which nourished my soul in 4 days for the rest of the year’s trials. I will be back.
- Greek yogurt–what I look forward to, at midnight, to keep me working just a little bit longer. Now that I’m not nursing twins anymore, I can’t have bowls of ice cream every night. Nor can I stay awake without some promise of reward.
- Public libraries–my oldest son reads about 7 hours every week, at least, and we would go bankrupt trying to keep him in books, without our dear library, and our librarians’ spot-on recommendations
- Teachers and coaches and counselors and neighbors and all who make up the village that helps me raise these kids–we don’t build this on our own, and we are foolish and arrogant if we think that whatever successes we enjoy are due to sheer effort alone. I know that I’m only a thread away from falling apart, and those threads unravel without a support team.
- Technology–yes, I know that there’s an anti-tech argument to be made, about isolation and the loss of community. I get that, and I cringe when I see parents ignoring their kids on the park because they’re immersed in their smart phones. But I can’t imagine how Ma managed to get food on the table and clean the kids’ clothes and write actual letters, without the technology that makes all of those things so much easier in my life. I love the days when we wander around an apple orchard or just roll around in the backyard. But I don’t want to forget my mom’s birthday ever again. And there’s an app for that.
- Smart people who write down their smartness and sell it to the rest of us in paperback form–seriously, I could read for the next 20 years, nonstop, and not come close to soaking up all that I want to learn about history and science and religion…and nonprofit organizations and network theory and activating activism. I know that writing takes a tremendous investment of energy. And I am grateful.
- Legos, for bringing so much joy to the life of my older son, and for making it possible for even a totally spatially-challenged person like me to build a 3-story beach house. If I follow the directions really carefully.
- Stories–stories of inspiration, stories of triumph over adversity, stories that illustrate the problems that need to be solved, stories that show us how we might solve them. I am grateful for people who help us tell stories better, for those who are willing to share their own, and for anyone–especially policymakers–who listen.
- Public servants, who still do exist, and who shape our polity for the better, because they run for office out of a desire to make the world a better place, and they often do, by working hard and putting others first and using politics to mobilize and inspire, rather than to divide and conquer.
That’s obviously only a very, very short list of what I’m thankful for–what about you? What are you celebrating, in this week of thanks?