Happy Thanksgiving! I took a minute last night to ponder what I was thankful for this year. It’s hard to narrow it down, because I’m thankful for my time I spent in Rwanda this year, John’s successful surgery, my business growth and personal development, my sister’s family coming to Portland to visit, and so many other things that happened this year (and that I failed to blog about). But I realized what I’m most thankful for isn’t necessarily the things that happened to me, or by me. While kitschy to say, it’s so much bigger than that. So, it’s not surprising that the revelation came as a result of where I spend most of my time and among the people I see on a daily basis. Today I am so very thankful for and humbled by the work that I do. A quick read below will help you to understand why. I wish you and your loved ones a most wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving. More stories to come that are funny, tragic, triumphant, challenging, and hopeful!


Coming to America doesn’t make all of your problems go away. It doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen now that you’re here. It doesn’t mean you will be able to afford to buy shoes. It doesn’t put your brother back together who was dismembered in a grenade attack. It doesn’t reverse the effects of rape or the trauma of being infected with HIV. And it doesn’t magically make your drinking problem go away or make your sexual orientation accepted. But coming to America can mean hope and a chance for a fresh start, and as hard as many days are for refugees, I know the American dream is still very much alive and out there for the taking.

That’s what I am most thankful for this year- the American Dream. I’ve gained so much gratitude during the course of this year for my freedoms, my happiness, a roof over my head, food in my pantry, and my health. But on a larger scale, I am lucky to see the American Dream very much alive and well. Here’s a little list of what I think the American Dream encompasses and why I’m so thankful:

  1. I’m thankful that my pregnant mothers all gave birth to healthy babies this year (three boys and two girls!), as they had access to world-class maternal health practitioners.
  2. I’m thankful that my client who speaks a rare African language, and with no interpreter, grew to trust me through our own method of communication. And despite her lack of language, literacy, or skill sets, is working a full time job that she likes.
  3. I’m thankful that both my clients that were hit by cars this year have/or will make a full recovery and that they got good medical care.
  4. I’m thankful that I had more than 100 adults become gainfully employed this year from my case load.
  5. I’m thankful that the cases I struggled with the most (mainly those with medical problems and single mothers) are all working… I can’t wait to share more of these stories.
  6. I’m thankful that one of my clients with physical wounds from war, as well as psychological wounds from war, got the mental health help he needed and was able to heal enough to start work before he became homeless. I’m thankful he’s still working 6 months later, going to school, and is always happy to assist me when I ask him for interpretation favors.
  7. I’m thankful that at least five of my clients joined a savings program and purchased cars this year. Having a car makes a world of difference, and they can make it from work to school on time and also help their families with errands and appointments.
  8. I’m thankful that our country provides food assistance to families with little or no income and temporary cash assistance to those struggling to find a job. As well as milk, diapers, and other necessities for mothers of young children. I’m thankful that, despite a severe lack of services still needed for refugees and Americans alike, we still have many more services available than most countries in the world.
  9. I’m thankful for Head Start, an incredible government-sponsored preschool program that not only helps many children from low-income families, but also really prepares our refugee children to integrate and prepare for school.
  10. I’m thankful for a good economy where jobs are becoming more abundant. There is still a large gap in assistance for our citizens who have been incarcerated, but unless you have a criminal background, a drug problem, or a severe medical issue, you’ll most certainly find a job.

While I’m always thankful for delicious food and good company, this Thanksgiving I’m thankful to truly understand what the American Dream encompasses and see that it is very much alive. What are you thankful for this year?


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