What Am I Thankful For?

11 days ago, on the 17th of November, a line of severe storms ripped through Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois.  Straight line winds with hurricane force gusts of wind.  Numerous tornadoes in several states.  And all the members of the AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team (AC STL ERT) on high alert for rapid deployment in response to the storm.

It wasn’t till two days later that members of the AC STL ERT put boots on the ground in Washington, IL and began the process of serving a community that was ravished by mother nature.  Seven members have supported the volunteer operations throughout the city and county for the past week, helping to manage the Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) as the rest of us continued serving through conservation projects throughout the state of Missouri.

As the Thanksgiving holiday came upon us, several of us in St Louis decided to make our way across Illinois to join our friends and ERT family in Washington.

We joined them at the VRC this morning and sent a small team out into the debris field to begin sorting piles of debris that line the streets.  Only working half a day, we ended operations shortly after lunch and began to close shop at the VRC.  From there, we headed back to housing to change and made our way over to a volunteer’s home who invited us to gather and join them for their holiday meal.

As the 16 of us (14 ERT members and this couple) gathered around to give thanks, we began to share what we were thankful for.  And I started thinking about where I’ve been in the past year and what I was thankful for.

A year ago, I was supporting the FEMA recovery operations in response to SuperStorm Sandy with FEMA Corps.  Helping out at Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) #9 in the Rockaways, my team struggled through the cold and the constant stress of the disaster alongside members of FEMA, Red Cross, and various other supporting agencies.  It was a hard journey, and we all have come so far in the past year.

I am most thankful for the opportunities that I have received over this past year (in both FEMA Corps and now the AC STL ERT) to serve communities across the nation.  I could never do this without my team(s), the 9 other members of Ocean 7 and the 35 others that make up the ERT.  These young men and women that I serve alongside are more than friends and family, but are a constant reminder of why we do what we do.  They were my sounding board, my consciousness, and my sanity, but most importantly, they are individuals whom I have learned to love, cherish and respect.

I am thankful for my family who have always been there for me, even when I do something really stupid.  They have supported me no matter what life seems to throw at me, and I love them for that.

I am thankful for friends whom I have been able to reach out to, and no matter how many bridges lie burned between us, they are willing to mend the road and continue this journey together.

I am thankful for a roof over my head (most of the time), a safe place to lay my head, and the adventures that this life has led me on.

And in some dysfunctional way, I am thankful for the demons that have continued to haunt me.  Without their constant presence, I would not know the strength I have found in God, nor would I have the relationship that I do with my Heavenly Father.  My art work would not have the same emotions.  Nor would I have the drive to continue down this path that has been laid at my feet.

Earlier today, one of my Corps Members from FEMA Corps shared a quote that I hope to live up to.  It goes as follows:

Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light.  Give thanks for your life and strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
– Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Tribal Leader

We have a chance to give thanks every single moment that we continue breathing.  It is a choice that we must make.  No matter how good or bad things get, we can still give thanks for the struggles and joys of living.

I pray that this next year brings an awakening of thanksgiving in myself, each and every day.  And within all those that I come in contact with.

God Bless and PEACE

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