This morning I woke up early and baked cinnamon rolls. As long as your definition of baking involves turning on an oven, removing the plastic film from around the tray and putting them in the oven – then I baked them.
I bought them last night during my traditional wait-until-the-last-minute-to-do-anything routine. Grocery shopping in NYC is similar to waiting in line at the DMV; overcrowded with grumpy people who don’t want to be there, and have better things to do.
Anyone who has ever been to Trader Joes in Union Square knows what I’m talking about. You walk in. Get a cart, and get in line to check out. Conveniently, the line wraps around the entire store. So as you wait in line, you grab whatever food is within arms reach.
Fortunately, my roommate Chelsey and I were able to tag-team it. While one person waits in line, the other makes a mad dash around the store, grabbing whatever they can carry. It’s kind of like playing Super Market Sweep. Really stressful, and you’re yelling back-and-forth about whether or not you can find the peanut butter pretzels while the other shrieks, “They’re right in front of you!” Except unlike the game show, this experience ends with you standing on the sidewalk with a 20 lb turkey under one arm, unable to hail a cab. A few Thanksgivings ago, I put my turkey and groceries in an empty suitcase, and wheeled it onto the 1 train. I’m fairly certain these NYC traditions will never make it as a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Despite all the chaos, and the excuse to overindulge, this is a great holiday. And I have a lot to be thankful for. It hasn’t been an easy year for many Americans (add my name to that list). But I just keep telling myself, if you don’t experience hardship, it’s difficult to appreciate the good.
I am thankful to have met an amazing woman. Last month, Esther Havens, Jody Landers and I took a redeye into Haiti- and squinted our way through the hot sun and humid heat to her tent in the middle of one of the largest displacement camps in the city. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in tents throughout designated parts of Port au Prince.
We met Mary Ange in front of her tent, while her neighbor braided her hair. We wanted to ask her about her stove, which was proudly sitting in the doorway. While her neighbor pulled and prodded at her head, Mary told us with enthusiasm how she was, “more than happy” to have such a nice stove to cook with. She calculated that she used to spend 50-70 Haitian Gourdes per day on buying charcoal. Now she spends 25-30.
She went on to explain that with her savings, she bought spices. Which she lovingly wraps into individual servings and sells as tea throughout the camp. The business is allowing her to save money for something important, she said. To send her seven-year-old daughter to school.
Her interview and success story was compelling, but it’s what she said next that has stuck with me. She casually pointed to the other tents surrounding hers and mentioned that after receiving the stove, she was able buy extra juice and food to give her neighbors. To make sure they’re taken care of.
I looked at this tall, beautiful women sitting in front of us in her colorful skirt and old track jersey and thought, “This year, this woman lost her house, her job, and even some of her family and friends. She has so little, and yet, continues to give.”
I’m thankful for all the people in my life who wake up every day with a smile. And continue to give of themselves. I am thankful for ready-made cinnamon rolls, suitcases, and roommates who don’t mind enjoying their coffee in a living room filled with coal. Mary Ange, I am thankful for you. For reminding me to give.
“A modern Thanksgiving would celebrate two things: The people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference, and… The opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing. The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.” - Seth Godin.