What I'm Thankful For
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Politics and Activism

What I'm Thankful For

A Perspective from Abroad

What I'm Thankful For
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Taking the leap to study abroad for a semester in Tanzania was not an easy one to make for me, and it was even harder to do so knowing I wouldn’t be able to spend the holidays with my family. Living in another country on the other side of the world, however, has led me to see these days in a new light. No, the holiday lights here aren’t different here. But, then again, most Tanzanian families don’t even have lights or electricity at all. To be frank, problems as petty as caring about not having holiday decorations hold no relevance- the value we give to abstract desires is not the same measure of happiness everywhere else.

I have come to learn that real problems revolve around the lack of what is frequently taken for granted back at home in the States. During the first couple of months that I spent here, my privilege was checked on global scale. Not only do I hold the privilege of sharing the same complexion as the majority population represented in the media and politics; I also share a nationality with people who have the time to argue over the design of holiday cups. I cannot speak for everyone, but I felt like sharing today what I am thankful for this year, after seeing what so many go without year-round.

Firstly, even though I will not be present, I am immensely grateful to know that my family will be able to gather around a table and share a meal together. I can rest to know that my family has pushed through another year to spend this day together again, and that their bellies will be full after they have finished their second, third, or fourth plate of food.

Next, I am grateful that I was able to vote in this year’s elections; as a U.S. citizen, I obtain the right to cast my ballot for the candidates of my choosing for different political offices. I voted from abroad this term, and while doing so, I recognized that not all are given this sort of political freedom: some cannot even reach their “local” legislator due to geographical disparity, or do not have the freedom of speech to indicate their preference.

Following that, I am so grateful to be able to learn. Because I grew up in America, I was educated for free until age 18 and I was, most literally, not left behind. I was allowed to attend school, despite being a girl; I was allowed to continue school, despite bad grades here and there. I graduated high school, and was encouraged to attend college because my brain is acknowledged as worth of something.

If there’s ever a problem, I am grateful for my access to healthcare. It is good to know that most of my fellow citizens have been educated in basic health knowledge like the spread of diseases; but, it is a relief to know that if somebody missed something, and I contracted a serious one, I would receive medical assistance. I will note that I may have to pay a great deal of money later for being helped, but I am still thankful that my life would be given attention in an emergency because of my proximity to a hospital.

I may have my criticisms about America (which I am trying to avoid in this piece), but there is nothing I love more than our infrastructure. I am so thankful to know that when I go home, I will be able to go to any public restroom and access a bathroom with toilet paper. Beyond the million jokes I could make about how much I love western toilets, the network we have in the U.S. to access simple things makes me proud to live there. We have paved roads and sidewalks practically everywhere that facilitate our ability to travel, well, everywhere. We have a reliable postal system with which we can send handwritten letters and care packages to friends studying across the country. We have free public water fountains to refresh ourselves after a long run (or run-walk if you follow my pace). We have signs to mark where we are, and we have public centers in every city to help us if we still don’t know. We have service positions to help our citizens in cases of need, we have public transportation to take us where we need to go, and there’s electricity to light up our journey there.

Lastly, I am grateful for the pursuit of my ancestors toward the American Dream. I may not have the same opportunities to climb all the ladders ahead of me, or break the walls that will be built around me; but, I may show gratitude for what my family has already done before me. I am thankful my family emigrated from all over Europe to come here and work toward a new life together. I am thankful that they made something of themselves, which allowed my parents to make something of themselves, which allows me to make something, too. I am thankful that they stayed loyal to this country, and persevered during times of economic depression, drought and famine, war, and social injustice throughout. I am thankful that they moved to a nation rooted in the belief that we all ought to reach for the sky, and that they set a precedent with these actions so that I may aspire to upstand them.

I encourage you to continue give thanks for what you are fortunate to have, regardless of whether you believe it came from God, the founding of America, your family, your friends, or your own hard work. A part of being American, a part of this dream we all seek, is the notion that we were validated in our fundamental human rights; are these rights, though, becoming reserved for only the privileged? In response to this question, I wish you to remember that your privileges- of having access to food, water, education, healthcare, communication- your rights, aren’t given to everybody around the world.

And in the true memory of giving thanks for what we have as Americans, I think it’s important to acknowledge that rights are still being denied to our country’s own citizens. When our founding fathers declared our nation’s freedom 240 years ago, the foundation was already being laid 100 years previous- built upon the backs of others and sealed in the blood of the native peoples we forced out of their land. As you gather to celebrate what you are grateful for, the descendants of these indigenous, these slaves, these immigrants, and these imperialists are gathered to fight for their Constitutional rights again at Standing Rock.

I do not know you, or all the hardships and successes of which you have faced in your life, but I urge you to be thankful. I urge you to be at peace in every moment you are allowed the space to feel it; I urge you to rest well every night that those with privilege aren’t attempting to strip away your rights; I urge you to never feel guilty so long as you have made the thought to acknowledge all that you have to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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