As I was finalizing my plans for Thanksgiving a week ago, thoughts of all I had to be grateful for flooded my mind – wonderful parents, siblings and extended family, friends, great health, a warm home, good food, a feeling of purpose… Pretty much the norm for most people I know.
And then I volunteered at the Global Fest on Michigan State University’s campus on Sunday, and from the opening Chinese Lion Dance, it was clear what I am especially grateful for this year.
Are you familiar with Capoeira? I wasn’t until I watched Capoeira Mandinga, a group of artists from both the Detroit and Lansing areas who performed the Brazilian dances, acrobatics, music and martial arts that define it. (http://www.capoeiradetroit.org/)
Have you ever seen a Gumboot dance? I hadn’t until I was moved by the performance of several MSU students from Africa in their coveralls and gumboots, rhythmically stomping, slapping and clapping, just as the South African miners did during the oppressive days of apartheid.
When is the last time you’ve danced to bamboo sticks? The Malaysian Student Organization took me back to my grade school gym days, except they dance with far more finesse than I ever did.
How about the Chinese YoYo? I’ve been to China twice and while taking in all of the tourist sites, I never took the time to discover this popular activity. I had fun watching the local Chinese school demonstrate this fun activity.
So how does any of this relate to my Thanksgiving? Here I was in the midst of hundreds of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews. It would be fair to assume there were probably also agnostics and atheists in the crowd, and perhaps people from other cultural religions I am not familiar with. As I reflected on this experience, it became clear to me – this year, in addition to everything else, I am thankful that I live in a city, support a university, and volunteer for an organization that embraces, respects, and values these different ethnicities and all the richness they add to the country.
P.S. If you’re in the Lansing area and interested in working with international students, check out cvip.msu.edu.