I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for the people in my life. I am grateful for the people that I had the pleasure of getting to know while they lived in this world.

The past month or so I was feeling like death was surrounding me. First, the several people in my I Grow Chicago community lost people important to them. I felt their pain, I saw the numbness. Not all were killed by gun violence, but all lives were taken too soon. At the beginning of November, I cried on the one year anniversary of Ganika passing- her life taken at age 22 because she could not afford the recently increased co-pay for her life-saving epilepsy medicine. The following day I saw on Facebook that a childhood friend’s brother had overdosed. Next, a beautiful woman that I work with and love lost her unborn child.

Last week I attended the funeral of the woman who made my dream wedding come true. Jan was like an aunt to me. She rented a house at my family’s Farm and Eddy and I got to know and love Jan and her partner over the past few years. Jan was a beautiful soul, always willing to do anything for anyone. I never got to give her a thank you present for all she did to make our wedding so wonderful. I spent some time feeling super guilty about not being able to give her the thanks I thought she deserved. I now realize that choosing to feel guilty is not what I want to be about. Feeling like a death cloud is following me is definitely not what I want to be about either. I choose to feel grateful. To live my life with the attitude of gratitude, knowing that I am whole and complete.

I’m grateful that I woke up this morning. I am grateful that I have a body that allows me to move as I please. I am grateful to have an incredible husband and life partner.

I am grateful to work at I Grow Chicago. The job I do is by no means easy. I experience a lot of hurt. Our racist and oppressive systems are hurting a lot of people. However, the love and joy that I experience far outweighs the hurt. I am grateful to have the opportunity to make an impact on my small part of the world. I am grateful for the love and laughter I receive from my friends and family. I am grateful for the support system I have that allows me to continue to do the work I do.

I choose to feel grateful. When I have a hard day, when I have a great day, I still choose grateful. It feels so much better to have gratitude than to choose sadness, anger, regret, or guilt.

Here’s a poem that we close out all of our kid’s programs with at the Peace House:

“Let my mind find confidence.

Let my soul find peace.

Let me fulfill my life’s purpose.

Let me live my life with the attitude of gratitude.

I love myself.

I bless myself.

I heal myself.

I am myself.”

This is what keeps me going. I’m grateful to be alive and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives.