Tag Archives: gratitude

What I Took for Granted

Photo by United Nations Girls Education Initative.

Sometimes when I’m working on a creative project or experiencing a new environment for the first time, I like to jot down random observations or thoughts that have struck me throughout the day, usually in bullet points. This little written exercise serves as my way of reflecting back on what I’ve noticed in the surrounding world and how I’ve felt about it. In addition, the practice helps me collect material for potential poems, short stories or blog entries that I may write in the future.

While we were in Uganda, one of the observations that cropped up regularly in my nightly note taking was the realization that most of the basic needs refugees and nationals struggle to address are things that I’ve taken for granted. As we gathered stories and interviews for our Backpack Journalism project, I found myself shocked time and again by the challenges facing East Africans, particularly in terms of their security and education. I started compiling a list of these difficulties, keeping track of what surprised me most so that I could develop a newfound appreciation for what I have.

Things I’ve Taken for Granted:

  • Sleeping without a mosquito net.
  • Food on the table.
  • Having the choice to eat or leave food based on its taste (Growing up, our family had this rule that if you tried the food on your plate without complaining, but didn’t like its taste after a few bites, then you wouldn’t have to finish it. The only exception to this parental policy was broccoli; you were required to eat ALL of those).
  • Drinkable tap water or easy access to clean water.
  • Soap.
  • Paved roads.
  • Owning pets.
  • Effortless communication with friends and relatives through texting, email, calls, or social media apps.
  • Close proximity to hospitals or health care centers.
  • No tuition bill for attending public elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • Quality education.
  • The encouragement I received from family and teachers to perform well in school.
  • Having parents who supported my desire to pursue higher education, both financially and emotionally.
  • Feeling on par (and sometimes superior) intellectually with the boys in my classes.
  • Getting good grades as my number one responsibility before college.
  • Books for my own reading pleasure.
  • Easy access to feminine hygiene products.
  • Not missing school because of my menstrual cycle.
  • Sex education.
  • Experiencing a full childhood and adolescence before I turned 18.
  • Receiving gifts on birthdays and holidays.
  • Being valued as a human being, NOT a future bride. 
  • Having empowered women to look up to in my life.
  • Extended relatives who would never traffic or exploit me should something happen to my immediate family members.
  • Knowing my rights.
  • Sleeping under a roof.
  • Sleeping in a bed.
  • Living in a small room with only one other person (Shoutout to my freshman roommate, Rachel, and all our rowdy times in Kiewit 728), not my whole family.
  • My privilege to travel outside of my home country.
  • No bribes with local law enforcement.
  • Never experiencing a violent conflict firsthand.
  • Never fleeing my country due to a violent conflict.
  • Living with the future in mind rather than being worried about the day-to-day.

Part of the Problem


When touring the Mexican side of Nogales, a train passed us sporting the Union Pacific logo and the slogan “Building America”.

This was a train filled with assembled car parts headed for America. This got me thinking who is building America?

I am not building anything, but I sure do consume.

While in “both” Nogales I have had to face the reality that I play a role in the problems surrounding migration. I am not free from fault. I partake in American successes on the backbones of those across the world. I am not living in an isolated nation. I can no longer turn my back on the connectedness of the world I am a part of. Someone else is building an America I get to reap the benefits of.

Isabel Garcia, a public defender in Tuscon, Arizona, truly hit the nail on the head in her interview. That America is not ready for the reality of a world without migrants. A world where we have to pay higher prices for labor. A world that would inconvenience us. She talked about being grateful for migrant labor. I am not yet sure what this gratitude looks like?

However, I do understand what it is not…

Gratitude is not deporting these migrants.
Gratitude is not treating them less than human.
Gratitude is not purposefully separating migrants from their family during the deportation process.
Gratitude is not streamlining the immigration criminal justice process.
Gratitude is definitely not building a wall.

image

I was always raised to be grateful for my immigrant background. To appreciate those who came over on a boat and accomplished the American Dream, so that my life is easier. It is about time we start appreciating both the migrant’s plight of the past and the migrant’s struggle today, as it is immigrants who build America.

Gratitude

With less than 8 hours before we hit the road to head to Nogales, I really should be getting some rest, but I’m much too excited.

After five days of weirdly exhausting boot camp, I couldn’t be more antsy to get to work.

I’m a strongly visual person, and so when I daydream about the future, a strong image usually comes to mind. In this case, I have no strong image, no vague image, no image at all in imagining what lies ahead.

The next two weeks are so close I can feel my heart beginning to race, but I truly have no idea what I’m getting myself into here.

More than anything, I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed with a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for a university that values faith and justice. Gratitude for professors that invest their entire hearts and souls to the Jesuit mission. Gratitude for an opportunity to put four years of study, reflection, practice, and intentionality to work in one last Creighton adventure. And last, but not least, one last road trip in the good old 12-passenger vans.

Nogales, here we come!!!

Pope Francis saying "gracias"
My favorite Popemoji is particularly appropriate today