By Suzanne Sparrow Watson Last summer, in the bright sunlight of August, our 10-year-old grandson looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Mimi, at Thanksgiving don’t forget the cranberry sauce and the mashed potatoes. Especially the mashed potatoes.” I have no idea why he thought I might forget these staples of our Thanksgiving feast, but for him to mention it months ahead of time means it’s pretty important to him So that makes it pretty important to me. The thing is, I think mashed potatoes are the hardest part of preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I’m usually in the throes of making the gravy and getting all the side dishes in the oven and then in the middle of this frenzy I have to mash the darn potatoes. I’ve been stressing about this over the past few weeks and combing the internet for mashed potato recipes that I can make ahead of time. But I worried that the potatoes would get mealy or dried out if not prepared at the last minute. It finally dawned on me that I was giving this far more thought than it deserves – if mashed potatoes are my biggest worry, I’m a pretty lucky person. So I turned my attention to my Thanksgiving “grateful statement”. Like a lot of other families, before we dive into the bottomless pit of calories that is Thanksgiving dinner, we each have to say what we are grateful for during the past year. I have one rule: you can’t say you’re grateful for your family, your friends or your health. Those are things that should be appreciated every day. So I began to think about what I might cite as being grateful for this year. Of course, Dash the Wonder Dog is the best thing that happened to us, but since I think of him as family that eliminated him from contention.
As if on cue, the next week two of my former teammates at Bank of America posted pictures and stories on Facebook of their latest volunteer trips and I knew I’d found my “grateful statement”. While the rest of us loll on sandy beaches or go skiing at beautiful resorts, Evan Boido and Mike Clement spend their “vacation” time in parts of the world that are most in need of their kindness and expertise. I don’t know about you, but I’m very grateful that there are such people in the world, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to tell you a bit about them.
Evan Boido was accepted as a member of Global Volunteers (http://www.globalvolunteers.org/organization/default.asp) several years ago. Their mission is to engage short-term volunteers on long-term projects to create, nurture and sustain the wellbeing of the world’s children so they can realize the full promise of their human potential. They send volunteers to the poorest areas of the U.S. and around the world. Evan accepted an assignment in Romania, caring mostly for orphaned infants and toddlers with physical or mental disabilities at the Barlad Children’s Hospital. As you can imagine, this could be heart-rending work but Evan dives into each mission with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. Over the past few years she has made a huge difference in the lives of countless children. The staff of the hospital try their hardest to care for the children but they are over-whelmed. Without the efforts of Global Volunteers such as Evan, many of these children would languish in their cribs with little individual attention. This past trip Evan brought along her niece, Shannon (pictured right with one of the children) to make it truly a family affair. Evan has gotten to know and love many of the children over the years – she is overjoyed when one is adopted and crestfallen when one succumbs to their medical problems. As much as the hospital gains from the Global Volunteers, I know that Evan gains even more from the time spent with “her babies”.
Mike Clement just returned from the Congo, where he serves on the board of the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christian-Medical-Institute-of-the-Kasai-IMCK). Their mission is to provide quality health care and health care education in that part of the Congo, the most impoverished nation on earth. The most frequent health issues include kettle burns, oil burns, accidents requiring amputations, child malnutrition, and fistula care. The hospital is proud of the fact that they have made strides in health for newborn children and their mothers through education and access. But the hospital is consistently short of medicine and is in arrears with its finances since most of the indigent poor cannot pay for their medical services. Mike, who is a communications consultant, goes once a year to the hospital to help develop strategies for fund-raising and to advise on how to keep their staffing levels within their budget. As you can see from the picture (left), he also spends lots of time with the children. This photo of a little boy, with his hand holding on to Mike’s shirt, says it all. Despite their differences in culture and living circumstances, a unique bond is created when a good-hearted person reaches out to help a small child . I have looked at countless pictures of Mike’s trips to the Congo and they all depict the locals with joyful and grateful faces, but also an unimaginable level of poverty and squalid living conditions. And yet Mike describes these trips as “soul healing”.
So this Thanksgiving I will worry less about my lumpy mashed potatoes and spend more time being grateful that the world has people in it like Evan and Mike and the organizations for which they volunteer. I hope that you have such people in your life as well and I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!