Building community in a changing world

December 28, 2020

Saying Goodbye to This Year With Gratitude

I’ll wrap up this year with an excerpt from this wonderful blog by Anna Johns, one of the many wonderful people I’ve met this past year. Here’s the intro from Anna’s story of gratitude:

In the mid-1970s, the girls of the Bethel Girls Orphanage in a remote village in the Indian state of Kerala, gathered in our Sunday-best to remember the generosity of American families for our Christmas. We had a plastic Christmas tree with ornaments from America, including my favorite: holly leaves with red berries. I had no idea these trees were real until I came to America. Our home in northern Virginia has one holly tree in front and one at the back of our house. I am grateful to these two trees for keeping me grounded and not letting a day go by without remembering how lucky I am to have gone from an orphanage in India to America–the land we all dreamed of–against all odds, coming from the family and background that I had.

Americans sent us a variety of chocolate (stores only had two types of candy that I only saw on my daily walk to school), colorful hair clips shaped like flowers or birds (we only had bobby pins) and once, a beautiful yellow dress with faux-pearl buttons. We celebrated America’s kindness and generosity annually—those are my earliest memories of practicing gratitude.

That special day we forgot about our impoverished existence, which started with a breakfast of plain cornmeal porridge, made from meal in sacks with an American flag on them. After traveling from the U. S. the meal was full of tiny black bugs, which gave it a bitter taste but we picked them out and devoured the porridge.

During mango season I would skip the porridge and wait under the mango tree for a ripe, juicy mango to fall. You have to be fast, because there were 199 other hungry girls with the same breakfast plan. But on that special day in December, I gazed at the beautiful shiny objects in my hands. Even the painful, infected sores from the lice in my hair that plagued me didn’t matter; someone cared about me enough to send these awesome things. Now, lucky enough to be living in America, I have to say, thank you America for everything.