This year, I'm thankful for my community.

To My Community, Thank You

It's the season of being thankful; thankful for our parents paying our bills, for close friends stopping by, thankful for homecooked meals -- this year, I'm thankful for my community.

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I was born and raised in a small, poor community. Most of my friends haven't even heard of my town, so I keep a map saved in my photos so it's easily accessible in a pinch. Lubec is the Eastern most point in the entire United States — and, another cool fact, it's the closest point in the states to Africa.

Besides my college town, Lubec is the only place I've lived, and I'm so grateful for that. Even though Lubec's median income is below the poverty line, I've learned so much about giving.

Every year around Christmas, my town holds a toy drive. There are boxes posted around town where people can drop off gifts for families or kids that aren't fortunate; there are several opportunities in the winter for people to drop off lightly used winter jackets, gloves, mittens, hats, and so on.

When somebody in the community gets sick -- you bet we're having an online Facebook dessert auction to raise money to help pay for their care.

When my grandmother was sick with cancer and needed help paying for her treatments and travel costs, the people of Lubec rallied together and raised a good chunk of change for her. Maybe a week later, the community came together and did the same thing for another older gentlemen battling cancer.

When I was still going to school to become a physical therapist, a local woman said to me, "If you need help paying for school, let me know! We'll hold a fundraiser. We'll have you taken care of."

I don't doubt that one bit.

I was fundraising to go to Washington, D.C. my senior year of high school, I raised six-hundred dollars on a Yankee Candle fundraiser. I hung out at my workplace with a table and a horrible, handwritten sign. If I remember correctly, three-hundred dollars was directly from donations, just from that one fundraiser.

I left a donation bucket up at my workplace. I saw people drop twenty dollars in it, others would tell me to throw their change in the bucket.

The thing about living in a small community is that people give what they can and they don't expect anything in return.

This is the biggest reason why I am so thankful I come from such a small, tight-knit community. If you're struggling, if you want to do something super cool like go to Washington, D.C.; if you need a ride to a doctors appointment, someone will surely be able to help you out. Need someone to pick up your meds? As long as you can get them the cash, you can count on them.

There have been lots of times I've needed a ride after school, and my mom couldn't come to get me on account of her being at work. Sometimes coworkers will offer, and the only thing they ask for in return is "a bit of" gas money for the trip to Machias (which is thirty miles away).

I'm so grateful for my community; they have all shaped me into a person willing to do what I can within my means, whether it be buying a friend dinner or lending a compassionate ear.

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To The Grandmothers Who Made Us The Women We Are Today

Sincerely, the loving granddaughters.
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The relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter is something so uniquely special and something to be treasured forever.

Your grandma loves you like you are her own daughter and adores you no matter what. She is the first person you run to when you have a problem with your parents and she never fails to grace you with the most comforting advice.

She may be guilty of spoiling you rotten but still makes sure to stress the importance of being thankful and kind.

Your grandma has most likely lived through every obstacle that you are experiencing now as a young adult and always knows just exactly what to say.

She grew up in another generation where things were probably much harder for young women than they are today.

She is a walking example of perseverance, strength, and grace who you aim to be like someday.

Your grandma teaches you the lessons she had to learn the hard way because she does not want you to make the same mistakes she did when she was growing up.

Her hugs never fail to warm your heart, her smile never fails to make you smile, and her laugh never fails to brighten your day.

She inspires you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You only hope that one day you can be the mother and grandmother she was to you.

A piece of girl’s heart will forever belong to her grandma that no one could ever replace.

She is the matriarch of your family and is the glue that holds you all together.

Grandmothers play such an important role in helping their granddaughters to grow into strong, intelligent, kind women.

She teaches you how to love and how to forgive.

Without the unconditional love of your grandma, you would not be the woman you are today.

To all of the grandmothers out there, thank you for being you.

Sincerely,

the loving granddaughters

Cover Image Credit: Carlie Konuch

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You Don't Have To Be Born Into The Family You're Meant To Be With

Water will always be thicker than blood.

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According to Merriam-Webster, the primary definition of a family is "the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children", meaning to be a family, you must be related to others by blood. I used to run by this ideal up until high school took over my life with full force, but, as my friend told me one night in middle of our conversation, you can't get through life without friends.

You can't walk a pathway full of obstacles on your own and expect to come out of the other side unscathed, especially mentally. You can't see yourself face-to-face with your worst enemies and conquer your worst fears just by boosting your own confidence (unless you have an amazing capability of keeping your self-esteem afloat just by yourself).

In essence, life is meant for you to be born into a group of people and take on the world as if there's no one else you're meant to live with. To live is to survive with spirit, and friends are the bridge to the emotional freedom that blood-related family can't always bring.

And there's no reason to realize only if you have a large group of friends or if your family isn't as supportive as friends. It's something you come to realize with experience, and you won't know it's true until you find yourself sitting at a lunch table laughing so hard with these completely random people until you can't breathe.

It amazes me when I'm thinking late at night about how I came to meet my best friends that there was a completely randomized set of events that happened to end with two different people sharing common interests. Who would've thought that in a sea of seven billion people (that keeps changing every second), I'd be able to find myself identifying my extended family as a girl who loves reading, one who loves fashion, another who loves pull all-nighters to watch Netflix, and so many other people around me, too.

It's a diverse group of people that I identify as my family outside of home, and I know that college being just around the corner is going to change my life. But that just means my family keeps growing. You don't have to be related to someone to call them family. My friends and I openly consider ourselves to be sisters, and it's going to stay that way as long as we stay together.

One thing I can agree with in the true definition of "family", though, is that no external force can break apart a bond. And if there's something that happens to break us away from one another, we weren't meant to be family in the first place. It's a constant cycle throughout life of figuring out where you belong, but you'll eventually come to understand who you were meant to be stuck with.

There's a sense of thankfulness that comes after the realization that you've found people you can completely be yourself with. They'll forgive, they'll share, they'll love, and they'll do anything to make sure that you know that you're one of the pack.

Just a few days ago at a party, we were all glued to the TV screen while playing "Bandersnatch", and everyone seemed so invested. It was comical to see their reactions to scenes that I had already seen months before, and because the movie was an interactive game, when they made the wrong decision or when I accidentally spoiled the next scene, they would yell (out of playful spirit). It was exactly like a family, and though I wasn't the closest of friends with a few people there, it was nice to see that everyone was bonding over the movie.

It's the smallest of moments when you make the largest of discoveries, and over the past three years, I've found out that there's not much difference between family and true friendship. Friends will unconditionally love and support you just as your blood relatives might, but the only big difference that I can immediately think of is that the people in your life will show you love in different ways based on how they know how to show it.

And that's what makes you love them all the more.

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