I must say I am really missing home lately. How I wish I could wake up on Thursday morning to the sound of Christmas music blaring from the kitchen and the delicious smell of my mom’s famous pecan rolls baking in the oven. This year will look a lot different for me. About the same time my family is getting ready to carve the turkey; I will be going to town on a plate of rice and beans. But this year I will be more grateful than ever.

Unfortunately, I often fail to fully appreciate the countless blessings in my life. However, there are many days here when I feel like I am being hit over the head with a reminder that I should be on my knees every night thanking God for all He has given me. By mere circumstance, I was born in a country that respects and values me as a woman, and into a family that loves and cares for me unconditionally. Much more than my basic needs have always been met, yet there are many people in this world who are not so lucky. I groan about eating my mom’s leftovers two nights in a row, while people that I work with every day are scrapping the leftovers off my lunch plate and putting them in a bag to bring home to their family. Reminders such as this not only make me realize how fortunate I am, but also show me what is most important.

Yesterday upon reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or Cómo El Grinch Robó La Navidad, to a group of students in the library, I thought of one of my favorite quotes from the movie. Lou Lou Who announces, “I’m glad he took our presents. You can’t hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, because it isn’t about the…the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That’s what Cindy’s been trying to tell everyone…and me. I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.” Yes, I am incredibly lucky to have a car, an iPhone and a closet full of clothes, however those are not the blessings that I cherish. I have no idea what I got for Christmas that one year, but I will never forget my little sister waking me up from the top bunk at approximately 5am, finding a candy cane on my pillow and running to wake up my mom and Auntie Celine. Nor will I forget the Thanksgiving where my Auntie Mary Ellen had to close the turkey with nails and we later had to search through the stuffing for a missing one.

Many of our kids arrive at school wearing the same clothes every day and return to homes that I couldn’t imagine living in, but that is not what matters to them. What matters is that you take the time to sit down and read a book with them, that you tell them how great their artwork is, that you give them a big hug every day. Seeing how little some people have here, yet the joy that they get from the little things reminds me that it is those same things that bring me happiness in my life. I can’t remember what the sought after gift was for last year’s Christmas Yankee Swap, but I do remember laughing until my stomach hurt watching my Grandpa come out of nowhere and steal it from my aunt. Likewise, I have no doubt that a year from now I will not be thinking about how sick I was of eating rice and beans, but that I will being missing long afternoon lunch breaks in the park with friends. So this year I will not only give thanks for my education, health and life circumstances, but also for the memories that I am making here every day.

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