What Thanksgiving Means to Me

by Fernando Perfas

Thanksgiving Dinner | Photo by Ms. Jones via Wikimedia Commons

As an immigrant in the 1980’s, I have a different take on Thanksgiving than most people do. It means more than just roast turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, and lots of drinks for the natives of this country. Since my youthful years were spent in the Philippines, I’m far removed from this tradition. True, my family does the whole nine yards of preparing traditional Thanksgiving dishes and much more, but only because we put our spin by adding a few Pilipino dishes on the side.

Through the years, the celebration has evolved to become more than what it was originally intended for. It is now a time for families to be together, enjoy meals, and catch up with everyone’s life. Everyone makes a concerted effort to come home and break from whatever preoccupation one has to celebrate the occasion with loved ones. It does not matter how far you have to travel; you simply have to be with your family.

For me, Thanksgiving is truly giving thanks, not necessarily to the American Indians, but to this country and what it stands for. It is a time to take stock of the gifts and opportunities this great nation has afforded me. I came here with my family on borrowed money for airfare with nothing but a few dollars in my pocket. We lived a simple life and on what our meager income could afford us. That was about four decades ago.

“In the last few years, something has happened in America that leads me to question if half of this country still believes what it used to stand for: a country that welcomes immigrants from all corners of the globe, of every shade, religion, gender, social status, and personal beliefs willing to uphold its constitution and live by its laws. The Civil War was fought over the slaves, will there be another due to immigrants of color?”

Despite the hardship of our early life in America, I am happy to live in a country that cherishes freedom and allows one to define and pursue any dream. I love a place where I can express myself without having to worry if I would be abducted or gunned down for my beliefs. I found my home in America, and I’m grateful for the opportunities. To have a better-paying job and enjoy some comforts of life, I had to get more education. Nothing is free. I worked hard for what I had. I did not expect dole-outs. I’m too proud of that. All I needed was a place where my honest labor would be appreciated and be given the opportunity for social mobility. I knew it was a matter of time, and things would get better.

The fruits of this land have blessed my family and me, and for the freedom we enjoy. We still suffer from discrimination here and there and have to work harder, more than others, to advance. Things often don’t come as easily for us. Sometimes living in a place where you are the minority spells for a limited social circle. Others gain more benefits and access to opportunities by their skin color and social connections. Beyond such small inconveniences are great things that truly count for a life of quality and opportunities for personal growth.

In the last few years, something has happened in America that leads me to question if half of this country still believes what it used to stand for: a country that welcomes immigrants from all corners of the globe, of every shade, religion, gender, social status, and personal beliefs willing to uphold its constitution and live by its laws. The Civil War was fought over the slaves, will there be another due to immigrants of color?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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