My cousin Sérgio, from Portugal, greeted me yesterday on MSN Messenger.

“Olá Beta! Novidades?” News?

I told him Thanksgiving was coming up, what his mother jokingly refers to as “o dia dos perús” (the day of the turkeys). He asked what that was and I said that it was a holiday that celebrated the arrival of the pilgrims to America, when they got together with the Native Americans and had a big feast with lots of food and called it Thanksgiving, but in reality they actually killed all of the Native Americans and were starving but we still celebrate it anyway.

"Live," proclaims a São Tomean wall

Sérgio laughed. Typical Americans, I suppose.

Yet the other side of Thanksgiving — the, perhaps, more modern side — that invites Americans to open themselves in gratitude for all that they have, is the Thanksgiving that I am proud of and hold dear. In my past year’s travels I have visited many a desperately poor family who exude the gratitude daily that my own family often takes for granted. We truly do not know the depth of our richness. Yet that does not mean that many of us do not criticize ourselves — or get criticized by our neighbors — for our lack of compassion. The amazing thing about American culture is that many of us are in a constant search to improve ourselves and, surprisingly enough, the world around us.

Thanksgiving is but a beginning to improve our world. It is a day that suggests to us that, perhaps, the true start to a harmonious world lies within each of us.

Whether you are from a country that celebrates Thanksgiving or not, take a moment to add a few things that you are thankful for to the list below. And Happy Thanksgiving, to Haiti, to São Tomé, to Portugal, to the USA and to everyone else in the world.

In the USA today, it's all about appreciating the little things.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for:

  • The ability to travel freely and to generally be welcomed wherever I go
  • My supportive family and friends who constantly joke about not being able to keep track of where I am
  • Marvin’s safe return from Afghanistan and our ever-strengthening relationship that is better than I ever imagined any relationship could be
  • A beautiful home in North Carolina that overlooks a river sunset and an ocean sunrise
  • My “day job”, which I only received due to the overflowing generosity of my boss, Tim Falconer
  • The fact that our crazy kitten is actually growing up (as first-time cat owners, we never thought we’d make it through her kitten-hood)
  • Cold New Hampshire mornings and smells of my upbringing that I can still come back to for the holidays
  • São Tomean chocolate, whenever I can get it in my hands, and the teachers there that are keeping our computer program running for 100 new kids this year

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!