This is the busiest time of year for Jeanette and I as J's Everyday Fashion moves in concert with the retail cycle. "Busyness" makes it really easy [for me] to forget to take the time to reflect on the things and people for which I am thankful. I am thankful for my wife, good friends, the roof over my head, and that all of my basic needs [and then some] are met. But when I woke up yesterday morning, Facebook decided to help me to be thankful for a reason I had not considered – one that required a little more introspection.
Facebook reminded me that in all of my wisdom, I posted this meme 8 years ago – that’s right, just before Thanksgiving. This meme that I thought cleverly and succinctly broke down one of the major issues facing our society. At the time, I was aware people were homeless, I just wasn’t educated about the actual issue of homelessness or the many people it impacts.
This was a time when I cleverly drove around with a stack of business cards from Labor Ready in my car so that I could hand them out to the people asking for money at the highway exits. After all, I worked for my money, surely that’s all they needed to do too, right? I firmly believed that people needed to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps - not taking the time to acknowledge that figuratively and often literally, many didn't even have boots to start.
Knowing what I know today, it’s a bit embarrassing to share this image, but I figure it is worth a little personal embarrassment in order to pass along this worthwhile message… It doesn’t matter if what you once believed was based in ignorance as long as you allow yourself room to grow and take hold of opportunities to do so. And once that growth has occurred, it is just as important to take the time to enlighten those around you that may also hold your previous views as their truth.
For me, it took spending countless hours with countless numbers of people who are/were dealing with chronic homelessness as I began working on the Rethink Homelessness Campaign. Through this time, I not only learned why my beliefs about homelessness were wrong, but I also learned some valuable life lessons from some of the people who I had the opportunity to befriend.
This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for...
Michael, who epitomizes eternal optimism while having every conceivable reason to be pessimistic.
Tammy, who remains strong in times I don't believe I could.
Nehemiah, who endlessly pursued education, and couldn't pass up the chance to laugh.
Ron, who looks out for others even in times when he should be looking out for himself.
Jimmy, who taught me just how close to home this issue really is for so many - even those like myself who didn't want to acknowledge it.
Eddie, who reminded me that whether you spend the day collecting cans, cleaning toilets, or sitting behind a desk running a company, you should never be ashamed for putting in a hard days work.
Machel, who time and time again helped me to see that people without means didn't want those of us with means to not have the things that we have because they don't have them. But rather, they would just like a chance to have some of those things too.
William, who would remind me that you get to decide your attitude, regardless of your circumstances.
What or who are you thankful for this year?