Thanksgiving: Like Kites in a Refugee Camp

I woke up this Thanksgiving morning thinking about something I saw when I went to visit the refugee camps with Partners Relief and Development last month.  Something I never expected to see.


I expected to see a lot of things.  I expected to see deprivation, despair, despondency.  And I did.  I expected to see hunger and need and not enough.  And I did.  I expected to see misery and sorrow and loss.  And I did.

But the one thing I didn’t expect to see? Kites.

As we drove through the camps, everywhere we looked we saw children with kites.  These weren’t something purchased in a store and distributed by an aid group.  Instead the children had gathered the discarded pieces of refuse from the life happening all around them.  A few twigs, too small to be missed from the cooking fire.  A flimsy plastic shopping bag.  A stretch of string, perhaps from the giant white rice bags the World Food Program distributes among the displaced.  They gathered these bits and pieces of a broken life and they made kites.

Image Credit: My friend Susie Foy.

Everywhere we looked, floating above the misery, were these joyful, ebullient kites.

Unshakable hope, ever-rising.  Astonishing, really, in the context of that place.

In her new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, Anne Lamott says: “Against all odds, no matter what we’ve lost, no matter what messes we’ve made over time, no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which creates breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day.”

You and me, we all have our losses.  We all have bits and pieces of our own broken lives – some we’ve shattered ourselves and some that are broken through no fault of our own.  And yet here we are.  The sun is rising on a day called Thanksgiving; a day when we can practice radical gratitude which leads, I think, to defiant hope.  Today is a day which invites us to string together those bits and pieces of our lives and to see in them all the extraordinary beauty and promise and possibility our lives offer.  It’s a day to make kites.

There is a time for mourning.  There is a time for weeping.  But there’s also a time for kites, and if we let it, joy can come into our hearts this Thanksgiving morning.  Not because the meal is perfect or because everyone is acting as they should.  Not because we’re exactly where we’d always imagined we’d be or because everyone we love is right by our side.

But here we are:  We’re alive.  We are loved.  We are invited to join God in the adventure of making right that which is wrong in our families, in our communities, and in our world.  We have an opportunity to invite someone new to our table, to provide food for a refugee mama to give her baby, or to bake someone a pie.  It’s enough.

There is purpose and beauty and joyful, ebullient, floating hope in our lives.  So let’s put our full hearts out there today and remember the human spirit – the God-given spirit within us – always rises and soars with thanks-giving, like a child’s homemade kite floating high above the misery of a refugee camp.  Untouchable.  Unshakable.  Sufficient for the day.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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