Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Many Thanks

Sharing Thanksgiving dinner with my kiddos!

Thanksgiving was a bit different this year.  My traditional Thanksgiving meal was replaced with a bowl of porridge.  As I was walking to eat lunch at the Fathers' house with the community, a heard one of the girls, Grace, call out in her high pitched, raspy seven-year-old voice, "Sister, you come eat."  Obviously I couldn't resist this invitation.  Here was a circle of kids who probably only ate that one meal the whole day, and they wanted to share with me.  So this Thanksgiving, instead of sitting around a table sharing a meal with my family, I was sitting on the ground sharing a meal with my new family--my South Sudanese munchkins.  And instead of getting up super early to wait in long lines on "Black Friday," I got to get up early to celebrate the Eucharist with those same kids whom I love so very much.   
This year I was able to put aside the traditional festivities that go along with this holiday and truly focus on what I am thankful for.  And this year, that list is quite extensive.  Every morning for the past three months I have woken up in South Sudan--a reality that has yet to sink in fully.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to actually live out my dream and passions at the age of 22.  I am thankful that I get to spend all day, every day with the most amazing kids I have ever met.  We sing and dance, make up the most ridiculous handshakes, play football, and just joke around.  I am thankful that every day these relationships are getting deeper and more meaningful, and  our conversations are slowly changing from small talk about the day to really getting to know the kids and their hopes and dreams.  I am grateful that I get to bandage the biggest and nastiest wounds on the cutest little kids.  Every day I have a line of kids who come to the hospital during their break at school to get their wounds cleaned and bandaged.  It is truly amazing to clean those same wounds every single day and see how they gradually get smaller and smaller.  

The most amazing site partners!
I am thankful that it is completely acceptable to pick up random babies and just cuddle with them and love on them-at least the ones who don't scream in terror as soon as they lay eyes on me.  I am grateful for the opportunity to teach.  It has been an adventure, but this week I successfully completed my first term of teaching.  There were many ups and downs, struggles and joys, but at the end of the day, I honestly love each one of my students no matter if they chased me with lizards during class or decided to dance on their desk in the middle of an exam.  I'm convinced they teach me so much more than I actually teach them.  I am eternally grateful for the three incredible ladies I get to share this experience with.  I have the most amazing site partners I could ever ask for-Grace, Cait, and Ariel.  Although Grace and Cait leave in a few short days, I definitely will cherish the months we did spend together.  They made my transition here so smooth and all three have been the best support during my time so far.  Who else knows how I feel better than those who are going through the same exact thing!?  And I am grateful, also, for the support of so many family members and friends in the States.  Every week, I get messages and emails from people at home.  Even though they are half a world away, their words of encouragement and advice are invaluable.  

Waiting for me outside my door
I am thankful that I can't walk one hundred feet without it taking under ten minutes.  I am greeted by both little and not-so little kids holding out their hands  with huge smiles painted on their faces.  I am grateful that I don't have any privacy whatsoever, although at times it may seen annoying.  The kids know where my room is, and if they see my shoes sitting outside they will scream my name until I come outside to greet them.  It always makes me smile when I am sitting in my room and all the sudden I have an entourage outside my door.  And I am grateful that I get to end each day by saying the rosary surrounded by teenage boys.  I mean, where else in the world would you find this?  

The list goes on and on.  Although this Thanksgiving was completely different than any other Thanksgiving I have experienced, it was different in such a great way.  As I was sitting down in the 90 degree heat eating the hot porridge with my bare hands, I couldn't help but smile thinking about the incredible life that God has laid out for me and for the blessings he showers down on me each day.  I thank God each day, and especially this Thanksgiving, for these and the many other amazing blessings and for His guidance through this journey so far.  

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