Thanksgiving: Gratitude

By Kelly Wickham

Raise your hand if you’ve spent the better part of this month looking at your social media streams and seeing all the Gratitude posts? You, too? It’s all I’ve seen this month on my Facebook feed and my first inclination was to tune them out as I scrolled past to find interesting news stories and gifs of dancing cats. The last thing I wanted to do was read lists of gratitude from my friends about things for which they were thankful. There was one major problem with my doing that: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I know there are better reasons to like Christmas (presents!) and my birthday (which is not technically a holiday), but Thanksgiving tops my list for the most simple reasons:

1. I get to be surrounded by my family.

2. I get to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and tell my children that I wanted to be one of the Rockettes when I was a young girl taking dance class.

and

3. It’s a dedicated time to think about how grateful I am in this life on this earth and in this body.

There was a time when I loved Thanksgiving even in the midst of being very poor. We’re talking poverty levels that would make your head spin. I was a single mother of a little girl and I moved her to a small college-town where I didn’t know anyone save for a few high school acquaintances. My first semester of school was going well, but I was still lonely and didn’t have the same opportunities that the other Freshmen had. The week before Thanksgiving everyone was making plans to go home and see their families but, being poor, we didn’t have the money for gas to get us back home.

My daughter, Mallory, was attending pre-school and when I went to pick her up after one of my classes the director of the school stopped me before I reached the classroom door. Cheerfully, she asked me what my plans were for Thanksgiving and I started weeping uncontrollably. Have you ever bawled like a baby in front of a stranger? It’s mortifying and they don’t really know how to act. Instantly, she reached for a box of tissues and we sat in the tiny chairs lining the empty hallway. Mrs. Corinna, the director, held me for what felt like an eternity and asked me if I wanted to talk about it.

In the space of about two minutes I let my tale of woe pour out of me and told her I wasn’t feeling very thankful since everything seemed to be going wrong. She let me go for a moment, pulled back, and said something very simple yet profound to me:

If you had the power to make a change, what would make this situation better?

At first, it felt like she was actually giving me power. She was allowing me a moment to dream. Through snotty tears and gasps of air I told her that if I had the gas money to go home and take my daughter with me that all I wanted was to be together with my sisters and parents for the holiday.

How would you be more thankful then? she asked as a follow-up question.

I had to admit that I was already thankful in that moment. For her kindness, for the chance to dream and get out of my poverty-stricken despair, and for a human being willing to take a moment to care for me. As weird as it sounds, I started to feel better and then I remembered why my mother always said to count my blessings. We do so in times of feeling blessing-less and it’s a way to shift perspective. Mrs. Corinna hugged me again and told me that everything would be okay in the end.

She shared John Lennon’s words with me about that:

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 

Mrs. Corinna was right. It wasn’t the end. And it was okay.

After collecting my daughter and packing up her belongings, Mrs. Corinna met us in the hallway with an envelope full of dollar bills. She went in her purse and took out what she had, giving it to me to get enough gas to drive home for Thanksgiving. If I thought it I had made a fool of myself before, I outdid myself this time. I teared up instantly and cried right there in front of her while holding my daughter on my hip. She hugged me again and said that if I knew how to count my blessings then I would always be okay.

This is the thing that came to mind when I thought about how much I was ignoring my friends’ Facebook gratitude posts. My friends, wonderful as they are, have been counting blessings this month and, momentarily, I forgot how important that was to do. It was just the reminder I needed.

I hope you’re blessing counting today on Thanksgiving and giving thought to the generosity of any strangers in your past. This year, I’m remembering Mrs. Corinna and the scared, hopeless young girl I once was and how important it is to pass along that hope to others. May your day be filled with nothing less than hope.

5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: Gratitude

  1. Always thankful for the Mrs. Corinna’s in life. So often they appear right when you need them! When we lived in a small village in Yemen, I was supporting myself and my children by crocheting and selling purses. I thought I was concealing our poverty from the people well, and then one day, while I was waiting for class to start, an envelope of money landed in my lap. I turned around, but couldn’t see who had given it to me. The next day, someone gave my daughter some clothes. On another day, there would be a knock on the door and a bag of wheat would be sitting outside. Alhamdulillah for all of the people who see need in whatever form and don’t turn away.

  2. That tugged at my heart when you said that you thought you were concealing your poverty. I knew that well. It’s not just that we have the Mrs. Corinna’s in life, it’s that we recognize them and push on once they’re supported us.

    Thank you for sharing your own story, as always, Khadijah!

  3. I am sobbing. I just read your post to my family. My stepmom wants to meet you. She said, “There’s nothing like the truth.” She was also a single mother who struggled while putting herself through college. My favorite lesson in your story is if you know how to count your blessings, you will always be OK. Kelly, I count you among my blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, my dear friend. With love and gratitude, Rana

  4. Tell your stepmom I want to meet her, too! There are so many women like her, like me, who have stories like this and how they made us the women we are today.

    Counting my blessings for you and Little Pickle Press, Rana.

  5. What a story! Kelly, I’m so glad you came through all that, and are stronger on the other side. But I hate that you had to struggle through such pain. It’s a good reminder to us all that good people go through hard times sometimes and need our help. I like to think I would have been there for you too if I had been there. Maybe there is something I can do for somebody else…

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