By Richard Lucas Slusher

As the holiday season draws closer, it's a pleasant reminder to reflect on all that we have and how fortunate we are. City Year has allowed me to see a new world filled with different cultures and circumstances. In doing so, and especially now during the holiday season, I have a greater appreciation for the things I do have in my life and an understanding that others are not as fortunate. Being aware of what you have and being grateful for it will allow you to see inequities in other people's lives and work to change it; one of the many things City Year does for youth in America. As a City Year Columbus corps member, I am happy to share with you, the reader, what I am thankful for.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without my family. My father, mother, stepfather and stepmother have worked tirelessly to ensure I have everything I need to live a life filled with opportunity. A roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, food in my belly, education, discipline and love are some of the best things my parents could have provided for me, or at least assisted with, and I am thankful for each. Everything my parents do, they do it so that I can pass on the same values to whoever I come into contact with. Every day, we see youth who face issues that seem unimaginable. Not every child is blessed with the necessities that I listed, but they are essential to living a better life, and City Year exists to help.

Growing up, my stepfather taught me how to hunt, which has been part of his family's culture since its inception. Some of the important lessons I learned from spending time with my him in the woods were patience, hard work, appreciation for wildlife, conservation, and how to listen. It was never about harvesting an animal for the dinner table. It was about connecting with the natural world and having an appreciation for all that live in it. I'm forever grateful for the lessons my step-father taught me and for the memories shared with him in the woods. Every thanksgiving, he takes my brothers and I out to hunt rabbits, and I'm thankful for the bonds formed just by being in good company.

Afterward, we gather around a table with my grandparents as we laugh and give thanks for our meal. We all watch football together and cheer on our favorite teams. This may not be everyone's tradition, but it’s a tradition in my family that I'm thankful for every holiday season. Not everyone gets to enjoy holiday traditions or interact with family in such lighthearted ways, and we need to recognize that. However, recognizing the issue isn't enough. We all must work tirelessly to provide the next generation with the same privileges that make us so thankful.

As the holidays near, take the time to look back on some things that you hold dear in your life. Whether that is people, traditions or values, think about how privileged you are to have what you have. In doing so, you have already taken the first step to making change; recognizing that there are those who are less fortunate. Those people need agents of change. When we all work to provide others with a brighter future, then they can one day look back and remember who and what they are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

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