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My First Thanksgiving

My First Thanksgiving

My first Thanksgiving took place at the home of my ESL teacher, Bill. Alongside his wife, they graciously extended invitations to several ESL students who, like me, had minimal English skills and no family in the United States. We devoured his wife’s exceptional cooking, laughed over silly things, and sampled from his wine collection. Although many years have passed, the memory of sitting at Bill’s dining room table remains vivid, with his smiling eyes putting me at ease and making me feel welcome.

There was a young girl from Japan who mostly nodded, a Lebanese guy who kept stuffing his face and saying, “Yes, this is very good,” and me, who gathered courage from wine to keep talking, though I probably made very little sense. Unfortunately, aside from Bill, I forgot everybody’s name. I recall Bill teaching us about Thanksgiving as an opportunity to pause from life, savor an elaborate meal with those you love, and practice gratitude. He pointed at each of us and dubbed us “bonus.” Bill expressed his fortune in celebrating with us, the “bonus guests.” Bill bore a resemblance to my hero, Bill Gates, which struck me. I remember thinking to myself, “I love Bill, and I love America.

Every Thanksgiving, I reflect on Bill with profound gratitude for his warm welcome to a group of foreign students at his house, even if it may have involved some underage drinking, likely against college policy. Memories like these underscore the abundance of things I have to be thankful for. Whether it’s my sheer luck or starting with very little, practicing gratitude has never proven to be a disadvantage. It consistently grounds me, fosters connections, and provides a comforting sense of fulfillment. It plays a vital role in my physical and mental well-being. Recognizing and appreciating what is often hidden or taken for granted is both soothing and satisfying. My heart swells with gratitude because of people like Bill, the chance to cross paths with them, and countless other serendipities that aligned perfectly for me to cherish that beautiful Thanksgiving memory in his house. It’s about the little things, the big things, and everything else in between.

A few years back, I started a tradition in Bill’s memory. I wake up early on Thanksgiving morning to go for a 30-minute walk, leaving gadgets behind, letting go of duties that come with life, and freeing up my mind. Walking slowly, sipping on coffee, and thinking of all the little things, big things, and everything else in between that I’m grateful for.

Right now, though, I’m thankful because our paths crossed and countless other serendipities aligned perfectly for me to write to you. You add purpose and meaning to my words because you read them.

Thank you,

Burak Sarac, Team Lead

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