My business buys insurance through a local agent who happens to be a Bosnian Muslim immigrant. He grew up during the Balkans war in the 1990s. He just sent around Thanksgiving greetings to his clients which included a couple of stories from his childhood. With all the bigoted idiocy about Syrian immigrants being spewed by national political figures I thought that his missive would be a fine antidote. With his permission, here it is:
Hope you have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for many things, including discovering crossfit, but far beyond anything else I am thankful for joys of being a dad to my son William! But when I stop and think about having a son I often think of my dad who passed when I was 21. And I get choked up, and I am getting choked up typing this, so I wanted to share what the spirit of thanksgiving and family love means to me.
When I was 10 or 11 I noticed how huge my dad's legs were. One day we were just laying around and I remember making a big deal about it, I bugged him, asked why/how are his legs that big... (this is not because I was small, my dad genuinely had big legs) he just smiled and moved on... Later on, we packed a loaf of bread, some meat, little water and we went to forest.
We walked for a long time, and eventually sat down to eat. We started a small fire and grilled the meat. We ate nothing that day and I don't know if the meat was that delicious or if I was just really hungry, but I couldn't stop eating. I remember commenting on how great meat was, and how hungry I was. My dad ate nothing, I ate everything. I wanted him to eat too, but he said that he wasn't hungry and wanted me to have it all.
I enjoyed that meal, I enjoyed that day with my dad. Maybe it was that same day, maybe little there after I thought how big his legs are, one leg the size of me, and he isn't hungry? I knew he was starving, but he wanted me to eat everything because I was enjoying it so much. I also knew I would not give away food, but he did. I knew how much I loved him, but that day it was so clear to me how much he loved me, and it was the type of love I couldn't understand. My dad stayed hungry so I could eat and to me when I think about ultimate love this is what comes to mind.
I grew up during civil war and there were times when food was scarce. One winter, I think I was in 8th grade, so technically after the war but life after the war was just as hard as during war. That winter all we ate was just one meal a day and it was potatoes of some sort. I went to school hungry, did not eat at school, and as I am walking up from school to our house I am just praying. I just thought if I pray hard enough, God will hear me and bring food to the table. I come home and my mom is setting up a table for us to eat. As I am waiting at a table for mom to bring food, praying intensifies. Please have her bring something other than potatoes. I start thinking of reasons why I deserve more than potatoes, please just today I want more than potatoes. I close my eyes, silently stuffing as many prayers as possible before she brings food out to the table. I open my eyes to the sight of baked potatoes, not enough to fill me in. Defeated, I put my head down and start crying, but I didn't want to cry, so what got out of me were groans, and a few tears. My dad asked if I was OK, and I say yes, hiding my face. I look up to see my sister laughing, mom and dad content. Feeling of gratitude slowly overpowered everything I was thinking earlier because I realized how blessed we were for being together. So what if I was hungry, we had each other and we love each other and nothing else mattered, and I became grateful to have potatoes, some people were not lucky to have that, some people lost their family.
My father-in-law celebrates every holiday, every birthday, makes a big deal out of every occasion. I don't believe in birthday celebrations so I asked him why are you celebrating your birthday man, why do you care so much? "Why do I care so much? Do you really want to know? Do you really think I care about birthdays and all these celebrations? What do you think this is all about? This is all about having family together, when would we get together all at once and share this joy, we are lucky that we can do this, and I find every opportunity to have us together." My father-in-law also stayed hungry so his kids could eat, and he understands the power of family.
I think this deserves an ending that will bring all of it together, but at the risk of being cheesy it's best I stop here. I think you get the point, plus William is banging on the door, it's time for my break.