I had the most interesting Thanksgiving celebration of my life last night.  There’s a Polish priest who says mass in English at the Latin cathedral in the city center, and I believe his family actually lived in the United States (Connecticut) until his father’s generation.  Apparently he’s felt a huge nostalgia for the idea of Thanksgiving ever since, and with a blend of natural energy and sheer cheerful stubbornness, he managed to put together a simple Thanksgiving celebration for various Americans (and one Brit) plugs himself and three nuns, who successfully cooked a turkey for the first time in their lives (with a little help from Google).

So we ate turkey, drank Coca Cola or cheap Ukrainian beer, and sang the songs of our people.  Ukrainian nuns are better singers than intoxicated Americans trying to piece together all the words to “American Pie”, but we did okay on “Country Roads” and “Amazing Grace”, not to mention “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Thanksgiving has never seemed like a huge deal for my family.  We get together and do the traditional meal (prepared with consummate skill by my mom), but our most significant day to rally the clan has always been Christmas, with New Year’s Eve usually being the biggest convocation of extended family.  Ukrainians are fascinated by Thanksgiving, though, for reasons I don’t fully understand.  They don’t have an exact equivalent, but they have plenty of their own holidays which include feasting as a centerpiece.

Anyway, I thought this was as good a time as any to reflect in publicly available writing on what I’m thankful for.  I won’t say this year has been the hardest of my life, but it has presented at least three colossal challenges, and I’m literally thousands of miles (and metaphorically millions) from where I thought I’d be last November.

The semester is drawing to a close, and honestly I’ve been feeling exhausted.  But muscles only grow stronger by being pushed to their limits, and the same is true of personalities.  So, I’m ultimately thankful for the challenges I’ve been given, because–so far–I haven’t been found wanting in my ability to meet them, and past experience tells me that I’ll be a better man for it.

So, I’m thankful for the hospitality of everyone I’ve met at UCU, for my students (even when they exasperate me), for Burn energy drinks, for the support of my family and friends back home, for the wonderful new friends I’ve met here, and for the many opportunities I’ve been given.

Happy Black Friday, y’all!