Though the mythology of the origin of Thanksgiving belies the violence that actually took place generations ago, I still feel like the practice of thankfulness is both necessary and even at times prophetic. Thankfulness only spurs more thankfulness. Try being bitter while listening to someone sincerely giving thanks. Thus, with all that is happening in the world, even with all of the violence and death and destruction, here is what I am thankful for.
I am thankful for the number of conversations I had had with people directly and indirectly impacted by the violence in Palestine and Israel. I have been so influenced by my many Jewish friends who are holding two competing realities in tension: condemning Hamas’ violence and kidnapping of Israelis while also protesting the US-backed indiscriminate violence of Israel against Palestinians in Gaza. I have participated in several actions these past few weeks, advocating for Congress and President Biden to demand a ceasefire, and those actions have always been led by both Jews and Muslims who imagine a Middle East free from violence and destruction.
I am thankful for the Museum of the Palestinian People, the only Museum about Palestinian history, culture, and people in the United States. MPP has long been a partner of the Festival Center and with the increasing and unnecessary violence in Gaza, they have been a leader in peaceful protests and community building.
I am thankful for the 18 nonprofits and justice-seeking organizations that call the Festival Center their home. This past week alone, literally hundreds of people visited our space as DC Jobs With Justice, ROC-DC, Platform of Hope, the Collaboration for Immigrant Families, DC ACLU, Poder de Pueblo, Jubilee Jobs, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rising Organizers, Tikkun Leil Shabbat, and Open Goal Project all held events/celebrations/trainings in our space. Every week, every day I get to welcome freedom fighters into the Festival Center as they work for the liberation of those society so often marginalizes.
I am thankful for my amazing staff. I really am. Walter Taylor and Tommy Barnes work faithfully every day to keep the Festival Center clean and beautiful and they also provide hospitality to groups on the weekend. Claire Gholston is absolutely amazing, juggling multiple responsibilities, making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, while alway showing all those who come into the Festival Center warm-hearted hospitality. And Lindsay Fertig-Johnson makes sure we all have jobs! There is no one who has helped share the word of the incredible ministry of the Festival Center like Lindsay has. Her artistic creativity is unmatched and her passion for what we are building has been a source of joy and encouragement to me and the Board.
I have the best staff in the world.
I am thankful for my family of origin. Last year, at this time, for the first time ever, my family of origin all gathered together – brothers, sister, kids, grandkids, and of course, my mom, dad, and stepmom. It was beautiful, fun, and we won’t wait that long to do it again.
I am so incredibly thankful for my wife and best friend, Marti, who is the personification of God’s grace in my life. I am so thankful for my youngest son Isaiah, who finished his last year of football in college this past weekend. Isaiah is a natural athlete and is incredibly smart and he refuses to shirk either responsibility. There is no greater joy than watching him play. I am so thankful for my oldest son Elisha, one of the kindest, most compassionate, and loyal people I have ever met. And in January we will welcome the newest member of our family as Elisha will marry long-time girlfriend Sydney, who is a beautiful person and a beautiful soul. She will be a perfect addition to our family and I am so grateful for her and their love together.
And I am thankful for you. For whatever reason, you read my truly-out-of-leftfield meandering thoughts and I am so grateful. I especially love hearing from you; your encouragement, your thoughtful disagreements, your thoughts. Thanks for joining me on this journey and may your week be one that gives you reason to be thankful as well.