Giving Thanks in Times of Trial
We Find Uplift amid Adversity
Some learning comes unexpectedly. On October 3, I slipped and fell on a wet subway escalator and hurt my back. In addition to the pain came fear of how my life would be affected.
Happily, my injuries were not as bad as they might have been, and I am recovering well. The experience reminds me of how quickly things we take for granted can be lost and gave me new appreciation for my health insurance and my many blessings.
A month of scans and doctor visits taught me more respect for the challenges of aging. As I deal with my anxieties, I relax on my roof deck on a mild autumn evening. In recent years I have been helping LGBTQ+ refugees in Kenya, and as I look out on my city I am grateful to live where my rights are protected, even as our community and its allies fight to preserve them.
With fear over the fragility of life, my injury also brought appreciation of its preciousness.
Though blessed with help from medical professionals and support from family and friends, I am afraid of failing to achieve my goals, and of what is happening to my country. At the same time, I am still here, with a healthy reminder of my limited time.
I am grateful for my survival instincts. On one hand, it saddens me that circumstances force me to cut back my help for the refugees. They are at risk of homelessness, starvation, sickness, and hate crimes from a hostile population as they await resettlement to safer countries. On the other hand, recognizing my limitations enables me to continue contributing what I can.
As I work to right-size my humanitarian efforts, I feel renewed respect for the courage and resilience of the displaced people I have worked with. Their continued belief in themselves despite the intolerance around them is humbling to me. The flame of their self-affirmation is the essential source of their survival, without which aid dollars would do little good. Of course there is a need for more international efforts, but a hardy self-esteem drives the whole struggle.
Closer to home, I am grateful for all of those who have loved this country more than it has loved them. I am grateful for their endurance and adherence to their values even when faced with deadly bias.
An example occurred on January 7 in Atlanta when screenwriter and director Ryan Coogler had guns pulled on him by police in a Bank of America branch simply for “banking while Black.” He was attempting to withdraw his own money, but being a young black man in a hoodie and dark glasses made him a suspect.
I marvel that Coogler kept his composure and am thankful he did not die there at age 35. He is now 36, and his latest film, Wakanda Forever, the sequel to Black Panther, opened on November 11. His gifts include a dedication to truth-telling while avoiding bitterness. Considering the horrors his people have endured, the golden spirit that comes through in his work is an extraordinary act of grace.
Many other African Americans have shown similar grace in the course of our history. One was Mamie Till, whose 14-year-old son Emmitt was brutally murdered in Mississippi on August 28, 1955. Despite his horrible disfigurement, his mother ordered an open casket and allowed Jet magazine to photograph it. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my boy,” she said with a strength that seemed to well up from the earth. The incident helped catalyze the civil rights movement and is the subject of the recently released movie Till.
The disregard by white nationalists for the contribution of African Americans in holding our nation to its founding principles (which the Founders fell far short of) is not just an offense, but a desecration. The diversity in our country is an essential quality that cannot be erased, no matter how many people are killed due to unhinged conspiracy theories and scapegoating.
The tree of our national struggle has many branches. On November 2, several women disrupted oral arguments at the Supreme Court to protest the Dobbs decision. One of them shouted, “We will restore our freedom to choose!”
Thank you, sisters. You remind us that we are still creating our country.
Yet another reason to be thankful: it was announced on November 3 that InterPride has awarded Capital Pride Alliance the license to host WorldPride 2025 in DC. ▼
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at email@example.com.