Thanksgiving was exhausting, but the good kind of exhausting; the kind that involved not finishing last in my 5K, taking multiple cat naps, eating seconds on deviled eggs and apple crisp, and holding hands with my grandpa. And as I collapsed into bed to call it a night, I found myself giving thanks for not just all of this, but for everything that's transpired since last Thanksgiving.
The memories that stuck out the most had a common theme: circles. The best moments—whether profound and healing or light and fun—of my life this last year happened in circles with people I love: around tables, around campfires, on dance floors, in boats, on docks, on decks, in parks, and in prayer.
The moment above from this last Spring came to mind, specifically. I'd taken a last minute opportunity to travel to Xela, Guatemala to help drill a well with some friends. The little Mayan village we were drilling for was high in the mountains with no access to clean water. They'd heard of the organization we were drilling with four years ago and had been praying since then that we would come and drill. We'd later find out from talking with the women that many had lost multiple children due to water-borne illnesses. Sadly, this is still a common-told story in various regions throughout the world.
When we arrived at the road that descended into their village, several women were waiting at the top just to greet us. When we got to the area where we'd be drilling, many more were also waiting, gathered in a circle around a tin bucket full of flowers. They served us fresh bread and café and then asked us to join the circle as they gave thanks. Within moments, most of their hands were lifted toward the sky and almost every woman present from the village was sobbing. They cried out overlapping prayers, and our translator communicated what she could back to us, but I what I remember most that day is hearing "gracias, gracias, gracias señor" over and over. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.
We were all taken off guard by their gratefulness, and ultimately changed by it. Here in the extremes of distress and poverty and loss, these women were sobbing in gratitude for our arrival, for the 50% chance that we might be able to drill through the mountain rock and hit a pocket of the same ole stuff we pour from the tap and store in Brita pitchers in the States.
I left Guatemala deeply impacted by the way our new friends gave thanks throughout the week. It was a way of expressing gratitude not limited to a thank you card or a text. To them, gratitude wasn't an obligation or formality or courteous acknowledgement—it was something to slow down for and break bread over. Gratitude was gathering in a circle, looking each other in the eye, sharing food and beverage with one another, praying thanks together, and not being afraid to express the sentiment with tears in their eyes.
I'm thankful for circles, this year more than ever. And I hope we'll continue to create more of them with the people we love, as a way of celebrating one another, of becoming more vulnerable, and of simply deepening our "thanks."
There have been countless sacred moments where friends have showed up and slowed down with me this past year, where we haven't held back in expressing our thankfulness for our surroundings and each other. Today, I am overwhelmed in gratefulness for each of you—your friendships have taught me more about the generosity of God than anything else.
To life in circles,