Though it seems that we all observe this day in the same manner, of course, we don't, so I, being the odd bird that I am, will share my personal observations and thanks for things other than life or a roof over my head, even thought they are very, very important and of which, of course, I am thankful for. Those, however, are obvious things that we all are thankful for.
I want to give thanks and apologies to the Wampanoag people, specifically, the Pawtuxet tribe, and most specifically, a guy named Tisquantum, an interpreter and mediator, who taught the starving, ignorant colonists at Plymouth how to plant corn, fish and hunt beaver, thus, helping them to survive. Later that year, there was a harvest feast with the colonists that Tisquantum and folks from the Pokanoket tribe attended; this is said to be the origin of what we now call Thanksgiving. I'm sure that they, and the people of the Massachusett, Narragansett and other tribes in the region had little inkling that in just a few years time, they'd be slaughtered almost to extinction in the creation of what would become the United States.
Let me give thanks to the Choctaw people, one of the tribes who sheltered escaped Black slaves. Some of these slaves intermarried with the Choctaw people, leading to the ancestors of my birth mother.
Along with the indigenous American nations and peoples who were driven from their lands, suffered untold and unimaginable injustice, massacred and nearly wiped out, and now, who barely survive on scattered reservations, I give unnumbered thanks to the Black African slaves, kidnapped from their countries, brought over to this country, the Caribbean and South America. The conditions on that Middle Passage were so horrific that over half of the slaves died before the ships docked in various countries. They were sold like goods, treated worse than animals, stripped of their names, languages, cultures, and religions. They were not allowed to learn to read and write and had Christianity foisted upon them so that they would be happy that they were enslaved and beaten, raped and sold at will. Though the colonists thought them to be less than animals, this country was built on their backs. Among them were my ancestors on my birth father's side.
I give thanks for immigrants of color, who helped to build this nation. They were the ones who did the backbreaking work, the dirty jobs, the jobs that the vast majority of Americans, even now, would never do. They built our railroads, and today, harvest our food, take care of our children, and clean our toilets. They are the unseen folks who are the backbone of this great country! Among them are members of my family.
Two men whom I never met, deserve my and millions of people's thanks - Mohandas K. Gandhi, who, through entirely peaceful means, freed his home nation of India from British rule. His work inspired a young Black minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., who used Gandhi's methods to fight for the civil rights of Black people here in the U.S. Tragically, they would both be assassinated, but their work continues to inspire many.
There are so many people in this world who give children a home via foster care, adoption or just taking them in. Many families also bring adults with disabilities into their hearts, homes and lives. I give thanks and love to these people because that's how I found my family. I was in foster care, adopted, and as an adult, taken in by my wonderful family!
I am a nerd who loved school, but I started during a time when children with disabilities didn't have the right to an education. I am so thankful that not only was I able to attend school, but I went to class with nondisabled kids from preschool through university. When I hear stories of parents who fight for accommodations for their disabled children, I am grateful that, in elementary school, I had accommodations, such as large print tests and extra tutoring. I also had teachers who cared for, and believed in me - Mrs. Magnavite and Mrs. McBride at Countee Cullen Elementary School and Mr. Kielty, Mr. Strassberger and Mrs. Gray, at George Henry Corliss High School - you inspired me and made me excited about learning!
I remember and give thanks for three specific people in my life - Sr. Anne Mayer, SSND, my Godmother, who introduced me to the social justice movement, Dennis Schreiber, my supervisor at Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, who introduced me to the disability rights movement and taught me about fundraising, relationship building and networking, and Wade Blank, the founder of ADAPT, the national, grassroots disability rights group that I am a member of. Wade was a friend and mentor, who taught me community organizing and groomed me for leadership. These three were responsible for changing my life.
If there is any entity that I am most thankful for, it is the group, ADAPT. There are not enough words to say how grateful I am for my ADAPT family, who loves me, nurtures me and believes in me even when I don't.
I am eternally grateful for my beautiful, loving wife, Lisa, whom I met through ADAPT at a time when I'd given up hope of finding true love.
Finally, I am thankful for my disabilities. That may seem strange, but if not for them, I would not be the person I am. They helped to shape me and my life.
It's great to be thankful on Thanksgiving, but hey, it's only one day. I'm thankful and grateful every day of the year, even for the not-so-good stuff, because often, they are blessings in disguise.
So, there's my list - part of it, anyway. What things are you thankful for every day?