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Commentary: I am thankful for friends, family and strangers

My family arrived in 1951, leaving Mexico City for a beautiful place called Chula Vista. Everything was new. It was like landing on another planet. The irony of it all is we landed almost on Thanksgiving Day. My father was raised in New York City, and he knew the ritual of the holiday, but we had no idea. So he explained to us about what a wonderful day it was. It was a celebration of a time not long after foreigners landed on Plymouth Rock, like we landed on the rock of Chula Vista as welcomed strangers to the land.

Those Indigenous people welcomed immigrants from another country with open arms and with collaboration and mutual respect of the abundance that the land had given them, they celebrated as a family and gave thanks. The Pilgrim immigrants gave thanks to those people who helped them survive the harsh environment in the new land. The land was giving to all who took care of it. Somehow, we have lost the real meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe it’s because the modern family unit, especially the family unit of mankind, has been eroded and been compromised through the years.

We will miss family at the table this pandemic year, but we should give thanks for many things that were given to us this year. I am so grateful to my parents for instilling in me the power of faith and prayer. I am thankful for the gift of health and one more day on this planet because at my age it is a gift. Thankful for those people who have given me their love and loyalty no matter what. Thankful for my family, friends, my true love, all my teachers, colleagues, activists, coaches, visual and performing arts directors, students, wrestlers, both formal and informal, who taught me to persevere and never give up and follow my dream. These wonderful people always had my back no matter what.

I am thankful for the doctor who gave me the ability to walk and I’m still running, for those people who harvest the food on my table, the first responders, for a country that’s evolving with a tapestry of diversity and all its strengths, and for those people who disagree with me. I learn more from them every day. I’m thankful for the gift of speaking two languages, for my family who gave me my heritage and all its history and what it has contributed to this country. I am thankful for a country that knows how to do the right thing by correcting its wrongs.

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I am thankful for you who are reading this because you can read. My mother always said, “It’s not the turkey but what’s inside the turkey that makes it good.” In words first attributed to Henry S. Haskins, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I am thankful to those unselfish strangers who take an oath to protect, serve and preserve life, no matter who you are — as Blanche DuBois said in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Tennessee Williams’ famous play, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Virchis is CEO of Virco Enterprises, the former director of visual and performing arts at the Sweetwater Union High School District, and professor emeritus and artistic director at Southwestern Community College Theatre Department. He lives in Chula Vista.


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