It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like Thanksgiving – it’s probably the country’s most popular holiday. For most Americans, the day is marked by traditions – football, turkey, beautifully prepared vegetables, stuffing, pies, eggnog and other beverages. Families come together, celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy each other’s company. No doubt, there is tension in some households, and some yearn to get through the exercise of eating dinner as a family as quickly as possible in order to watch football.
At Cristo Rey Boston High School, like any workplace, you can get lost in the challenges of doing your job. But, I’ve learned that it is critical to step back and be grateful for the incredible opportunity to be devoted each day to a mission that is greater than all of us – the mission of helping young people from the city find their potential and go on to better and happier life. A former Cristo Rey Boston teacher who came for a visit said to me this morning, “You have a good thing going here, Jeff.” She married last year, moved to a new city with her husband, and found a job she likes at a new school. She walked around the school, hugged old friends, and we had a nice chat. “This place is just special. It’s hard to put into words. I like what I’m doing, but it will never be Cristo Rey.”
Today, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, our school is saying thank you during a “Community Day.” We learned long ago that it is challenging to do a good job teaching students the day before Thanksgiving – everyone’s mind is on family, fun, and food! During today’s activities, we celebrated the rich culture and traditions of our school. At an assembly, two of our teachers gave the entire student body a reflection on their experience in other countries. Students strung together flags of the various nations that make up our community. Groups of students then performed traditional dances in their native cultures. Where else can you see dances from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cape Verde performed by a great group of young people but Cristo Rey Boston High School?
We ended the day by going from classroom to classroom sampling traditional dishes from the various countries that make up our community – Haiti, Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and many other countries. Many of our parents contributed food that is absolutely to die for. While I love turkey, pie, and every traditional American Thanksgiving food, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried fried yucca, grilled octopus, bacalhau stew, sweet papaya, corn pudding, rice djon-djon, pumpkin soup, Dominican sancocho, kipes, empanadas, mangu, tostones, flan and much more that our wonderful families have brought to Greater Boston.
Tomorrow, I’ll give thanks with my family in a very traditional American way, but I’ll thinking about and will be grateful for the families and students whose cultures and traditions enrich both our school in Dorchester and the very Commonwealth where the tradition of Thanksgiving was born nearly 400 years ago.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and thank you for all you do for our students and for young people everywhere.