Today is Thanksgiving Day. For the first time in my working career, I took this entire holiday week off and it has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on some of the things that awaken my internal sense of gratitude.
I’m thankful for a mother and father who sacrificed in ways that I still don’t fully comprehend to give their only son opportunities that neither of them ever had. Even now while my father lies in rest, my mother still hovers, defends and counsels in ways that boggle the mind. Any success that I may achieve in life was definitely catalyzed by such outstanding parents. They are the real MVPs.
I’m thankful that those same parents taught me the importance of family at an early age. I have aunts and uncles who have offered wisdom and care. I have cousins who are like siblings that live in other homes. I might not see them all as often as I would like, but I know that our bond is strong and, at times of crisis, we are not alone. I hope to instill the same values in my own extension of the family someday.
I’m thankful that I had the privilege to attend a University that helped me understand that true education is more than just an aggregate collection of facts. I was taught how to write concisely and clearly, to think critically to solve real world problems and to appreciate the idea that our blessings are meaningless if we don’t learn to use them to impact the world around us. I assure you, fair Princeton, that the blood in my veins flows orange and black.
I’m thankful that while most people go to work to make a living, I have the privilege of going to work to help young people make lives: rich and vibrant lives that change the world in which we live for the better. It seems like a dream to work with such an outstanding array of young, talented students of color who come together so that we can make a better collective destiny than our individual futures would have suggested possible. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years.
I’m thankful that I was blessed to start a business that has introduced me to another group of amazing students. The clients that I have the privilege of teaching about standardized testing and the college application process have such passion and determination. They deepen my appreciation for what young people can accomplish with sound counsel, consistent encouragement and a little bit of luck. And the fact that some of you choose to transition from clients to friends is an embarrassment of riches indeed.
I’m thankful, in the spirit of Jabez, for enlarged territory. As an only child, my immediate family unit was small, but it has expanded significantly. Now, I have fictive kin (#Ohana) that stretch across North America – brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandparents and parents, and even a few adopted children! And as the SPM for the Mid-Atlantic Region, my work should be limited to certain states, but I have students that are absolutely precious to me in Boston, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Oakland and other far reaching places. It would take far longer than life could permit to explain to each of you how much richer my life is because you’ve allowed me to be a part of yours.
And, most of all, I am thankful for a faith in an unseen God that allows all of these things to be possible – faith that lights the darkest of nights when it seems like justice has not been served as blood cries from the ground for retribution. It’s a faith that emanates peace while turmoil erupts across the land as some are convinced that violence is an adequate response to violence. It’s a faith that allows me to know that an incredible life like the one that I’ve been permitted to live during these first forty years is not a series of random circumstances, but a progression of ordered steps.
I’m so often tempted to take these many blessings for granted. But, as I reflect on both their number and their magnitude, I humbly bow my head in the realization that I’m so undeserving. And the only response that I can offer is simple, sincere gratitude.