From time to time, when meeting with my volunteers, we write flash blogs together: 10 minutes to get down our thoughts on a common prompt. We're practicing expressing ourselves and being less scared of blogging.
What are you thankful for that you didn't think you would be? What are you thankful for that you didn't used to be thankful for? What has surprised you with an upwelling of gratitude, something you were dreading, something you didn't look for but were thankful arrived?
It's not an easy question. Not a simple prompt for a ten-minute exercise (sorry, YAVs). In this time approaching Thanksgiving, it's easier to list the things that I've gotten used to being thankful for: the beauty of the desert. The work of my volunteers. Snuggles from my dog. Good food. Good weather. I am thankful that my life is full of such good things, and I recognize how easy it is to get used to the goodness. I don't feel thankful for good food, I just know I am.
Vidalia (not her real name) was the first woman off the ICE van in the Inn Project parking lot, the first of 16 new arrivals. She started asking questions right away, as I led the group down basement stairs to where they could rest. I listed what we could offer: bathrooms, laundry, food-- "Burritos? No mas burritos, por favor!" Vidalia called down the stairs, "no more burritos, please!" before erupting with laughter. The rest of the group chuckled, and I assured them that we don't have any burritos here, no, not like ICE with a scoop of refried beans in a a tortilla, we have other food, good food.
At the table where I filled out paperwork for each family, Vidalia laughed with me at my fumbling with phone numbers and phone calls (both harder in Spanish). She passed her phone across the table to me and I entered the WiFi password, so she could call her family member from her own phone. I continued with other families, seeing Vidalia on the phone out of the corner of my eye - sitting on her cot and crying.
Laughter is all that's left, sometimes, when you're trapped in a system you don't understand and that doesn't care for you.
Later on, I answered a call on the site phone. I thought the person asked for Vidalia , so I passed the phone to her. After a brief exchange, she looked up at me before getting up and taking the phone to another woman. It's for her, she said, not me.
I hit my head theatrically and laughed at myself, apologized, said something about how phones are hard. Vidalia smiled and pulled me down in a hug, arms wrapped around me very tightly. It's okay, she said, thank you so much.
Feeling strange, I realized it was the first time I had been hugged in days. I was flooded with gratitude. I don't know how to receive this grace.
Later, Vidalia showed me a cut on her scalp. What happened? I asked.
It's from when I crossed, she said, from jumping off the wall.
Author, Alison Wood
queer, white, cisgender, U.S. passport-holding, Presbyterian, church-employed, challenged by faith, imagining something better.
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