~ Empower. Inspire. Encourage. Innovate. Enhance. ~ Autorizar. Inspirar. Animar. Innovar. Realzar.~

~ Happy Thanksgiving ~ Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias ~

As midnight struck in the US, and Thanksgiving Day fell upon us, I sat in front of my computer mulling over the, ‘to do’ list for Thanksgiving Dinner, and was overcome with gratitude for the many blessings that have filled my life. I have a lot to be thankful for this year; the truth is I feel I am incredibly blessed.

This year I had the amazing opportunity to spend several weeks in Guatemala with a new-old friend; Jewels. A friend who became a treasured gem in my world; together we were granted the fortune of volunteering building houses, picking coffee, and studying Spanish. We met countless wonderful people working for a number of organizations that do some pretty amazing things and we met some of the most beautiful people living in some of the most impoverished of conditions. I am blessed to have her in my life.

I think it was there where my journey of recognizing my blessings began.

Boarding the plane to return to my life in America, I realized I had become very complacent in my life and really hadn’t taken a good long hard look at all of the blessings I have. Somewhere on the drive back in the middle of a blizzard that night I stopped and said, “Thank you God.”

I couldn’t get the words out fast enough and the tears fell like rain from my eyes. I had been in a place where people had nothing and complained about even less. I had been in a place where choices were few, rights were fewer, and freedoms were even less than that. A place where jobs, education, nutrition, healthcare, home owning, vehicle owning, personal protection, clean water, the gamete are virtually nonexistent yet, every man, woman and child I met greeted each day with a renewed sense of joy, happiness and zest for life.

The day prior I had been on top of a volcano which had recently erupted and decimated an entire village its venomous lava had spread a now thick layer of black ash and soot from peak to valley. Blanketing a once vibrant green tropical mountain top with nothing but darkness, yet everyone living there was filled with the brightest smiles, peace, happiness and love. Though my body was racked with pain from the hike and the twenty hours of planes, trains and automobiles, I cried not because I hurt but, because everywhere I looked I had a blessing.

I had friends to pick me up at the airport, a warm coat and winter boots, a hot meal on the table when I got home that night. A roof over my head, running water (hot at that), electricity, my own home, my own car…my family that couldn’t wait to see me and a puppy that was so excited she peed all over the floor when I walked through the door. I have my health and my job –my goodness I have A LOT. In fact I realized I have so much to be thankful for that I spent the entire summer thinking of ways to give back and spread some of these blessings….a blessing is only a true blessing when it’s shared.

I worked all spring and all summer and not just at my job.

I proudly graduated my daughter and host daughter. I am very, very proud of the accomplishments of both Jami and Roja and am truly blessed to have such fine women as my family. My daughter Jami, is the first member of my family to graduate with a college degree and the very first to ever attend grad school…For all the naysayers that said a teen mother and high school dropout could never be more than a welfare whore…Here’s my little blessing!

When a brush with a dangerous man in our community resulted in my having been put in harms way my son was the first person I told. Not a word was spoken when a loaded twelve gage was placed at the head of my bed and no arguments were had over the fact he was sleeping in my room that night. We didn’t talk about when the bastard got out of prison, we talked about how “no one eff’s with my mom.” Every mom should know her son has her back like that. I am blessed to have a protective and devoted fine young man as a son.

My family has always been loving and supportive. My sister has always been more like a bestest friend; listening, sharing, commiserating, encouraging and just always being ‘there.’ We can talk about anything and everything and it is the judge free zone. She always gets where I am coming from even when I don’t. My brother in law is more like a brother and my niece and nephew have always made me feel like I was on a pedestal, what I don’t think they realize is, it is I, who put them on the pedestal. I am so proud of my sister and her returning to college, my brother in laws continued efforts as a small business owner to not give in to the corporate muscle flexing and my head to toe pride in everything that Alex and Dimitri do; school, dance, crew, and being beautiful proactive, productive, members of their community. I am blessed to have such a beautiful loving sister and family.

As I started planning my trip to Nicaragua, people, complete strangers and lifelong friends would come up to me and ask what they could do to help make my dream come true. They wanted to help, make a contribution or tell me what a good person they thought I was. I am truly blessed to have such wonderfully supportive loving friends, both old and new. No such friends stood out anymore than my two biggest and best; MOM & DAD. It seems no matter what I do; good or bad, success or failure they are always by my side with their love and support. They have always been there and will always be there. Fact is the learning to give back and count my blessing was instilled in me by them. I am forever blessed to have them as parents.

I have a beautiful and amazing host family filled with brilliant young men and women from every corner of the world and their friendships over the years has meant more to me than words can say. I always believed and told them that I involved myself in the host family program as a way to give back…my belief is that if my son and daughter were to visit them in their country they would treat them the same way they have been treated by me, and that someday all of my children will find a way to give back. They have always gone out of their way to make me feel like I am the most special person ever, cooking for me, taking me to dinner, including me in their college lives, sharing some of their most inner thoughts, laughter and tears, appreciating and respecting our political, religious and cultural differences. This fall was one of those times; I was invited to a bbq and unsuspecting me attended. There I discovered my host children had gathered together along with many of our mutual friends to celebrate my birthday. It came at a time when my own daughter had just left to live on other side of the US and the same day my parents were to depart for Florida. I felt so blessed to have such thoughtful loving friends surround me, actually they are more than just friends, they are my FAMILY.

I took an inventory of my excess living and put the brakes on. I stopped buying because I felt like it and started buying because I needed to. I am blessed to live in a community that is full of talented people, which I can purchase locally grown and locally produced items. I continued to empty my closet of selfish living and pass it on to women in the US who need clothing and donate the proceeds to women abroad in need. I have had an overly blessed closet…

I became thankful for the forty one years I have had on this earth and the healthy life I have been granted to live and decided it was time to be a little nicer to my body and begin taking better care of it by eating, healthier and treating with a little more love. Yes I went veggie on you; I am blessed to be in good health and want to stay that way.

I planted a garden and shared it with my neighbors grandchildren it is always better to share an experience with a child they are after all the seedlings of tomorrows future…I am very blessed to have these vivacious giggling little girls as my neighbors, they are little blessings in my life and a constant reminder of my blessed childhood days on Central Ave. I started thinking in a more earth conscious way, being thankful for the environment and the planet we live on. I have made a conscious effort to leave less of a carbon foot print…I am blessed to have clean air, clean water, green grass, blue skies (well that’s up for debate) and beautiful trees and flowers all around me.

As it came time to go to Nicaragua and bring my donations with me a renewed sense of gratitude and feeling of being the one blessed enough to do this filled my soul, I had spent a large part of the summer feeling this trip was never going to happen and it did! Every hurdle I climbed every road block I stumbled over, washed away and returned to me with strength and courage. I have been blessed to have visited some of the poorest corners of the western hemisphere; visiting some of the most beautiful sites and meeting some of the most beautiful people… dining at their tables, walking their streets, working in their schools, being embraced into their way of life, culture, and language..my home away from home… I went with the intentions of bringing gifts little blessings and instead came home having been blessed. The whole trip was one giant blessing.

Two nights ago my computer chimed with an incoming message from my first host student, who is now married and in grad school, excitedly I replied back, we chatted for hours, we have always been that way…As the conversation closed she told me she often thinks back over her four years in my city and how I and my family fill her fond memories. She said we made her, a young girl from Senegal Africa, feel like a member of the family and knows no matter where she goes in the world she will always have a ‘home’ in Waterville, Maine. What she may never realize is that all of this started with her. I am blessed to have had her come into my life, she impacted my world, without her friendship a lot of the things I have gone on to do, may never have been done.

Thanksgiving may be different in its numbers around the table this year as my parents are in Florida, my sister and her family in Massachusetts, my daughter in California, my oldest two host daughters now in New York and New Hampshire and, my younger three host children are traveling about America…As Martin, TJ, Lucy and I sit down to partake in the traditional feast it doesn’t change the countless number of blessings felt in my heart.

With a full belly and even more full heart I am very grateful and blessed for my beautiful, loving, amazing, family, friends, both old and new friends, here and abroad, friends I have shared a lot with and friends I have yet to make, I am blessed to have you all…


Jewles said...

Oh my precious JUles! The tears are running down my face! You r truly an ange walking on this earth! I am so very blessed to of shared the Guatemala experience with you! You r truly one of a kind! I look forward to many more advetures w/ you ! I miss you~ WE NEED make an effort to visit w one another at least ince a week! I need my JUles time!! I love MIss JUli Sterling!! Stay gold always!! Jewles

Jules said...

<3 you Jewles!! Guatemala was a beautiful adventure together and hope we will do it again one day!! You are a phenomenal woman and I loved, loved, loved traveling with you. I miss you too! We will be getting together very, very soon and I think weekly Jules & Jewles dates are muy importante <3