Widgets Magazine


Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks

Thanksgiving feels out of tune this month.

Last week’s massacres in Paris and Beirut were the latest metastases in the cycle of violence that has overshadowed our lives since 9/11.

At universities from Yale to Missouri, the afterglows of the Black Lives Matter movement have exposed fresh ruptures on centuries-old racial wounds.

Back home in Korea, the dictator’s daughter-turned president has spat on the decades of bloody struggle for democracy by mandating every high school to adopt a single sterilized history textbook.

As we mourn and stand in solidarity, we must be guided by the better angels of our nature. Our march for justice cannot be fueled by anger alone, and gratitude can serve as a hearty meal on our long journey across the arc of the moral universe.

Although more than half of the 102 Pilgrims on the Mayflower did not survive their first winter in New England, our forefathers still invited the neighboring Wampanoag nations to celebrate the America’s first Thanksgiving in 1621.

When the world seems too bleak for gratitude, we can turn to our neighbors. May our modest thanksgiving unlock a circle of grace that spirals out to Seoul and Paris.

At the end of a year throbbing from instability, violence and fear, I’m grateful for modes of existence that offer perspectival plurality and alternative forms of interactions,” says Mei Li Inouye, a doctoral student in EALC who recently gave birth to a charming baby named Rouen. “I’m also grateful for new life and the hope it brings to a world of disenchantment.”

One of the 11 executive chefs on campus, Mary Russell-Wadleigh is “most grateful for the dynamic environment I work in and the direct contact I have with students and the creative energy I have among the chefs.” She and her team, which includes a former Ritz-Carlton chef, serve about 12,000 meals a day.

Bianca Cervantes-Torres, a barista at Green Library’s Coupa Café, brews more than 100 cups of coffee a day, of which the most popular are lattes and cappuccinos.

“I’m thankful for my mindset of turning problems into opportunities,” she says.

Franklin Godinez enjoys driving the Marguerite Shuttle because “I’m only 26 so I can relate to many students from different cultures and ethnicities.” He adds: “Every day you wake is a good day no matter how bad of a day it is.”

The Stanford Bookstore’s computer department manager, Jason Rinell, is most grateful for his “ability to walk.” He explains: “I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) three weeks ago, and my mom passed away with MS three years ago.”

At the Campus Valero Service, automotive technician Kurt Borkenheim is ecstatic that “I got married two weeks ago.” He and his wife Aster met at Stanford 15 years ago. “I love her to death, and everything has finally aligned the right way,” he says.

Kelsey Vasquez, one of the 100 Special Events Patrol officers, is “grateful for my family, my job, my friends, my education and my health.” She adds: “I’m also thankful for the troops fighting for our freedom.” When off duty, the 19-year-old security guard is a kinesiology student at a junior college.

History Ph.D. student Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein is “grateful for my focus rising to the challenges of classes,” as she was “learning lines and dance routines” in New York for the past three years. She adds: “I thought I’d have a mental breakdown within two weeks… but I do make it through so that kind of feels like magic.”

Sociology Ph.D. student Sangjoon Lee is relieved that “the world is not over yet.” He explains: “NASA said something recently about an asteroid just missing the earth, and the overdue Californian earthquake has not happened yet.”

As for me, I raise my wine to the French of this Edenic campus who defied terror with joie de vivre during their recent vigil, and my rice wine to the Korean students who have risen up with our national han: an unresolved yin yang of grievance and resilience which we sublimate into Sisyphean resistance against injustice.

To my editors at the WSJ, FT, and The Stanford Daily, thank you for polishing and publishing my shenanigans. Last but not least, my heart goes out to Lise, the Florys and my family for welcoming me home this Thanksgiving.


Contact J.Y. Lee at junyoub ‘at’ stanford.edu.