Thanksgiving Week – A Good Start

Hi there.

I know it’s been a while, and I’m almost done with a post that will hopefully fill in some of the gap of the last few weeks. That will be here tomorrow, I hope.

Yesterday’s sermon at Canyon View Vineyard highlighted the work of Convoy of Hope, a non-profit group that specializes in providing water, food, supplies, and personnel to people in need. Their work appears to be responsive, effective, and efficient. You may want to consider them in your end-of-year charitable giving.

Yesterday also marked the end of the NASCAR season, which means I am thankful (and hopeful) for the end of those ridiculous NASCAR Raceday ads on nearly every Bresnan channel I watch.

That was the start of what I hope will be a good week of giving thanks in a simple, direct way. I hope to have more examples as the week progresses, and while I bear no ill will toward the retail sector, it seems appropriate for me this year to hope that this Friday’s convocation of the First Church of My Stuff will be smaller in size and bad craziness, and that we can enjoy something akin to what Father Guido Sarducci called a “Little Christmas“.

Today’s installment of The Writer’s Almanac included the excerpt below, which touched me as one reason to give thanks for the stability we enjoy in this country, regardless of who is in charge, or how much we make of the comparatively small problems and issues we may encounter each day.

Today is the 29th birthday of Ishmael Beah, (books by this author) born in the fishing town of Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone (1980). He’s the author of the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007), published when he was 26 years old and chosen as No. 3 on Time magazine’s list of 10 best nonfiction books of 2007. That year, Starbucks chose Beah’s memoir as its Featured Book and displayed it at thousands of coffeehouses around the country.

When Beah was 12, Sierra Leone was in the midst of a brutal civil war, but his town seemed far removed from it, and he was busy memorizing Shakespeare and performing in a dance and rap ensemble. Then the rebel army came into his town and started shooting. His parents and brothers were killed. He recounted: “I ran away, along paths and roads that were littered with dead bodies, some mutilated in ways so horrible that looking at them left a permanent scar on my memory. I ran for days, weeks and months, and I couldn’t believe that the simple and precious world I had known, where nights were celebrated with storytelling and dancing and mornings greeted with the singing of birds and cock crows, was now a place where only guns spoke and sometimes it seemed even the sun hesitated to shine.”

The Sierra Leone government army conscripted him; by the time he was 13 he was carrying an AK-47 and constantly high on drugs — speed pills and also “brown-brown,” a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder that the child soldiers were given to sniff. For two years, he fought constantly in bloody battles.

Then, there came a directive to disarm child soldiers, and he was chosen by the army to go to a UNICEF-sponsored rehabilitation center, where he spent eight months.

He got in touch with a woman in New York who worked for an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), whom he’d met when he’d been invited to speak at a UN conference earlier. He asked her if he could live with her. She agreed and sent him some money and clothes. He narrowly escaped from Sierra Leone into Guinea, and then went on to New York, where the Brooklyn Jewish woman officially adopted him. He finished high school in New York, graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a political science degree in 2004, and wrote his memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

Ishmael Beah, who said, “I believe children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.”

Enjoy your week ahead.

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