I am reminded every year that Thanksgiving is a precious holiday for my family. Even in years of crisis and personal challenge, this day has been sacrosanct. Des, my now 14-year-old son adopted from Ethiopia, made this holiday come alive after years of routine family gatherings. Prior years were good, don't get me wrong, but they were not as full of meaning as they have been since Des came to be part of our family eight years ago.
Eight years ago we went around the table and asked everyone to say something about Thanksgiving. "What does this holiday mean to you?" Some answers were as expected: "I love being here with all of you." Some people were funny and commented on the delicious food or the traffic.
Des, however, had arrived on June 5, 2004, and after five months and with not much English, he understood the essence of this holiday. He was in kindergarten and ESL (English as a second language) classes that year as a six-year-old and he was learning about American traditions and holidays. He was introduced to Native Americans, the presidents of the United States and the folklore about pilgrims that is now apocryphal. He wasn't laughing about those myths, but rather he was holding them dear and treasuring them because they made him feel American. He really loved that he was an American boy.
On November 25, 2004, Des told us, "I am thankful for my family." That was exactly what he said and we all took notice and it forced us to be more thoughtful and appreciative. It has forever changed this day. I look forward to the smell of the turkey and the taste of mashed potatoes, but mostly what I want is for children all around the world to be safe and happy with their family.
There are millions of children, including kids in the United States, who cannot say that they are thankful for their family. They are in foster care, on the street, in refugee camps, slaves, child soldiers, girls married too young, boys and girls sold as prostitutes, and child laborers. All of these children deserve a family to make them feel safe and protected from the evils of the world. That is my wish on this and every Thanksgiving.