Serious post ahead. Apologies already.
Here in South Sudan, I’m spending my Thanksgiving working frantically to finalize a project that’s now overdue, thanks to my accidental 3 day meeting. And despite the stress, despite the urgency, I can’t help but sit back, spend a minute with my American roots, and reflect on what I’m thankful for.
I am thankful for being lucky in the global geography roulette game.
While I plan for a celebration of harvest later today, here in South Sudan millions are estimated to be food insecure. “Food insecurity” doesn’t mean that there’s no food. More often it means that there may be food in the markets, but the food is too expensive, or that it doesn’t meet nutritional needs, and therefore people are in danger of hunger or starvation.
All too often when we go to the field, I’ll walk around in the markets and find that there are no vegetables for sale. Usually you can find onions or tomatoes or small greens, but in several counties I’ve been to, there’s nothing.
In Upper Nile state, some can’t buy food because inflation rose so high that even a kilo of grains or rice became out of their price range.
And in Juba, the price of fruits and veggies is three times what it should be because – despite the lush land in the country – everything is imported from Uganda and Kenya since the war destroyed much of the agricultural infrastructure.
So while I dream about turkey, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato soufflé, I recognize how important it is to be thankful for food. To be thankful for harvests. To be thankful for life.
So I am thankful this year.
I am thankful I grew up in a country where it was more likely that I would finish primary school than die in child birth.
I am thankful that I don’t know a single mother or child who has died of sepsis.
I am thankful I’ve never spent four days in a hospital waiting for treatment because the drugs are completely stocked out.
I am thankful I never went to a market to find them stocked out of vegetables. For three months.
I’m thankful I never had to run from the LRA or the Murahiliin in the middle of the night and hide in mango trees praying to survive through until morning.
I’m thankful I never had to listen for the buzz of incoming planes looking to bomb my refugee camp and claim me as a rebel.
Because if I’d grown up in South Sudan, chances are I wouldn’t be able to say many of those statements today. In fact, most of my South Sudanese coworkers and friends (who have secondary school if not university degrees or more) can’t say most of those statements.
But I can say them.
I’ve worked with marginalized populations within the states just as I’ve worked with marginalized populations abroad. It’s not just where you’re born, but the circumstances you’re born in to, as well as a thousand other factors, and somehow I came out lucky beyond the stars. It never ceases to amaze me that of the 7 billion people on earth, when the universe pulled my lottery number up, it sent me to the top echelon of that 7 billion.
And this year I’m thankful for that and so much more.