another gratitude post

January 27, 2009

Monday and Tuesday this week I went to a hunger advocacy conference put on by one of our funders. Monday night they had a speaker –the director of the California Endowment — Robert somethingorother. His talk was great but one part at the beginning stood out to me: At the beginning of his talk he asked people to raise their hands if their parents had grown up in poverty, if their grandparents had, if their great grandparents had. i thought back to my dad working his full time job and coming home to work another parttime job or more; my mom going back to school when i was 11 or 12 and all the sacrifices it entailed; my mom’s stories about the parsonages they used to live in that were barely inhabitable and all that my grandmother had done to make them into a home; and my dad’s mom’s stories about about how when they were kids during the depression her dad would go hunting and they would eat whatever he could shoot (possum, squirrel, raccoon – which wasn’t her favorite); and my maternal great-grandmother who had to dig a path with her young sons through a blizzard to make room for the coal truck so they wouldn’t freeze to death in south (?) dakota…

I raised my hand every time… along with about 80% of the rest of the group.

the speaker talked about how our ancestors who had struggled through poverty had, at some point (at many points), made decisions to help our grandparents and our parents, and us to live a better life… and how all of that in so many direct and indirect ways had led us to our presence there that evening in a nice hotel with a delish free meal.
he talked about how making those changes was difficult — just like the issues that we are facing now — but because those choices were made, and that vital hard work was done, our lives were all the better for it.

i appreciated the way the speaker reminded us that our work, while difficult, is so important; whether we ever get to see the results or not, there will still be benefits beyond measure.

On a more personal level it also made me realize a little more fully that people I have never met have done more than i can imagine to ensure I could be where I am today — healthy, happy, smart, secure, etc. So much I will never be able to repay…

Except, I guess, I can pay it forward a little by doing what i can to live a life that honors all that hard work, all the difficult choices and all the doing without, without giving up hope…  I hope we can all live lives that show we don’t take any of that for granted…