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“What are you thankful for?”

They ask us what we’re thankful for.  Rod gives a casual, humorous answer. “The food this week was edible.” He says as the audience of the Philippines begin to laugh, even if the ladies were looking for a serious answer.  They love this young man.  He’s white, handsome, and hilarious.  They couldn’t ask for much more.  If he was religious he would become perfection to these God fearing women.

My student stood in front of me and four other judges.  Nerves consumed her.  She was unsure.  She looked at me for answers.  I was no longer her teacher, but her judge.  I could no longer help.  I gave her a broad smile indicating my admiration was still there.  I always say “They blow my mind on a daily basis.”  This is nothing short of the truth and today is no exception.

The stark, unfurnished living room created a cold feeling.  The people sitting in front of me were warm, contrasting the tiled floor they sat on.  Ten pairs of eyes were waiting for my answer.  I am not a hilarious, handsome man and so I feel intimidated.  I felt my face begin to flush.

Her speech is original and eloquent.  I couldn’t have asked for more as her coach and teacher.  She smiles.  She knows she has done her best. She knows that is all I ask.

My brain begins to pick through anecdotes of the week.  I kept telling myself I needed something funny.  I kept being transported to Thanksgiving.  My Grandaddy standing at the head of the table, introducing the moment I dreaded most, when I had to speak in front of my uncles and aunts and cousins, all of whom I feared would dislike my answer. My family crowded around the large dark stained wooden table, waiting for the expected generic response.  However my family members weren’t generic. Those responses seldom came.  My memories of young Thanksgivings were that of family members tearing up and speaking the truth and being genuine and honest.  There were few short, funny responses.  They took those moments seriously.  I followed suit, and began creating an emotional, yet genuine response.

The woman casually walks over with a stapler and a sheet with the results on it.  I push and shove to see how the other judges interpreted her performance.  I looked for her long full name, containing at least 6 syllables.  Second!  My heart raced.  I searched frantically for her face in the crowd.  I did not want her to think for an instant of feeling disappointed.  I gripped her shoulders, looked right into her young, full eyes and said “I am so proud of you.”  I knew this wasn’t creative, but it was true.  She smiled.  “Thank you so much Kru Taylor.”  She said.  Just as she did everyday as I left our practices.  I started jumping.  “Second place!”  I yelled waving my arms in the air.  I now know how my father feels when he announces to the entire world who I am.  “This is my daughter!” He would tell every stranger near us as I arrive in an airport or get 4th place in a Riding competition.  I wanted to yell “This is my student!” at the top of my lungs so that the whole world could hear.

I felt tears nearing the tips of my eye lids.  “I am thankful for my students.” I said, pausing trying hard not to let the water of emotion escape my eyes.  I realized a better technique would to speak quickly, rather than take pauses. “I just couldn’t have gotten any luckier with the group of students I got they make my life so wonderful I love them so so much they get me through every frustration including homesickness and fatigue they are my life.” I say without taking a breath. My tears retreat back into the iris.  They know it is not time.  The God fearing women stare at me.  I know it was genuine and emotional, but I hoped they would take it without making a big deal. They smile.

I am a happy kid at Thanksgiving with a true response everyone approves of.


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