Gratitude

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday, wherever you are. We spent the day with Mrs. Yeoman Farmer’s brother and his family, in the Detroit suburbs. They grilled one of our turkeys, which we’d taken over a couple of weekends ago. It was fantastic, as was the rest of the feast they put together.

The best part, by far, was spending a relaxing day hanging out with family. But in so enjoying our time together with them, it was hard not to think back on the contrast with the way we spent last year’s Thanksgiving day. It was the only TG we’ve spent away from family in a long time, but it was also one of the most memorable and one that we may be especially grateful for for many years.

Last November, we were literally a thousand miles away from home. Yeoman Farm Baby had just been born, and we’d been staying in an extended stay type of hotel in that city with him and all the kids. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer had continued homeschooling the older ones, which after so many days in small and unfamiliar surroundings was getting old fast. It was all we could do to get them out to run around at various parks and playgrounds every afternoon. We were eager and anxious to get home, but we were legally not allowed to leave the state with him before we got formal written permission from both YFB’s state of birth and our state of residence. Given the impending Thanksgiving holiday, lots of staff at the courts and other bureaus were out on vacation. Our legal process ground to a crawl, and we (only half jokingly) began to wonder if we’d make it home by Christmas.

And then came the invitation we’ll never forget. MYF had managed to meet several other Catholic homeschooling families in the area; she’s a natural extrovert, and seems capable of making friends no matter where she goes or how long she’s staying in a place. Once everyone realized we were going to be stuck so far from home thru at least the first of December, we got not one but two different invitations for Thanksgiving dinners. One was very far away, but the other was just a few miles from our hotel. We accepted the more local invitation, and had an absolutely wonderful afternoon and evening together with that family — and their extended family.

Particularly moving was the effort our hostess made to accommodate the YFCs’ food allergies. She basically ended up cooking two Thanksgiving dinners: one that our kids could eat, and the other for everyone else to eat. We did contribute one of our turkeys, and tried to help with food preparation and cleanup as much as we could, but having a newborn made that complicated. Their generosity was incredibly moving; they’d only known us for a short while, but went to unbelievable lengths to welcome us into their home and family while we were so far from our own.

We’ve stayed in touch with our host family, and even some members of their extended family, in the year since. I want them, and all of you, to know how grateful we remain for the time when we were strangers and were welcomed. We have lots of other things that we’re grateful for this Thanksgiving, of course, and I’ll try to mention some of them in upcoming posts. But that particular incident from last year has been on my mind, and I wanted to make sure I shared it first.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Good Out of Evil

Mrs Yeoman Farmer came across the following story the other day and asked me to share it:

NAIROBI (Reuters) – A Kenyan man bit a python who wrapped him in its coils and hauled him up a tree in a struggle that lasted hours, local media said Wednesday.

Farm manager Ben Nyaumbe was working at the weekend when the serpent, apparently hunting for livestock, struck in the Malindi area of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.

“I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python,” he told the Daily Nation newspaper.

When the snake coiled itself round his upper body, Nyaumbe resorted to desperate measures: “I had to bite it.”

The python dragged him up a tree, but when it eased its grip, Nyaumbe said he was able to take a mobile phone out of his pocket and phone for help.

When his supervisor came with a policeman, Nyaumbe smothered the snake’s head with his shirt, while the rescuers tied it with a rope and pulled.

“We both came down, landing with a thud,” said Nyaumbe, who survived with damaged lips and bruising.

The snake escaped from the three sacks it was bundled into.

MYF’s comment: “Thank God my ancestors came here on boats 300 years ago, so my kids and I don’t have to live some place where giant snakes drag people into trees!”

When I finished laughing, she added: “I’m serious! You can quote me on that. Put it in your blog!”

Slavery, particularly the way it was practiced in the Americas, was a horrendous affront to human dignity; MYF and I would be the last people in the world to wish it on anyone. But it’s interesting the way such tremendous good can be drawn even from such a tremendous evil. Beyond freedom from giant serpents, MYF and other descendants of African slaves enjoy liberties and opportunities that are unthinkable on the African continent today — and we are deeply grateful for that.

With everything in the news these days, it’s easy to forget how blessed we are to live in this country — no matter how our ancestors got here. Sometimes it takes a truly odd news story (“man bites snake”) to remind us of that. And to remind us of all the ways in which God can draw good out of the evil that men commit.

I fully expect that, ten years from now, we will all be marveling at the unexpected goods that emerge from these present social and economic difficulties.