Counting Our Blessings

Here in the U.S., we celebrate Thanksgiving in November. It’s a four-day weekend that sees one of the highest travel rates within the country, as families journey sometimes very long distances to reunite over food, shared stories, games, and prayers of thanks. As I think about the holiday and look at some of the stories in this issue, I’m struck by how stark the circumstances for giving thanks can be. And yet, there is always something for which to be thankful, even in circumstances most grim.

In "Nozuko’s Story" (p. 6), Quaker photojournalist Susan Winters Cook tells us the moving story of Nozuko, a young South African woman who has been valiantly struggling with HIV in the midst of poverty, social stigma, and often limited access to antiretroviral drugs during the past eight years. One of her children is also HIV positive. Yet, this is not a story of tragedy, but one of courage and the triumph of the human spirit. Through her illness, Nozuko has become an aids activist, and her work to help others who have the disease has brought blessing and fulfillment into her life, and given her a deep calling. For me, this lifts up the reality that we can find transformational experiences within the most challenging of circumstances.

Dorian Hastings, in "Post-Katrina Reflections" (p. 12), shares with us how very difficult the road has been for members of Friends Meeting of New Orleans—and how appreciative they are for the prayer, support (financial and other), and physical assistance that has arrived from meetings all over the U.S. "We will be forever grateful to the clerk of Baton Rouge Friends Meeting, Pam Arnold, who—by September 4 [2005], less than a week after the disaster—had contacted as many as half of our members and frequent attenders. She continues to field the countless inquiries of concerned Friends across the country," writes Dorian Hastings. While sharing the immense pain and difficulty of living in the largest natural disaster area the U.S. has ever sustained, she also offers concrete suggestions for helping to meet New Orleans’ most pressing needs. What could be more fitting for those of us who did not directly experience the calamity of this disaster?

At Friends Journal, we too have much for which to be thankful. I am always deeply grateful for the steady stream of outstanding manuscripts that are sent to us. Beyond that, I am intensely appreciative of the work of our many volunteers. There are now 17 of these good folk who offer regular assistance to us with many editorial and business-related tasks. I’d like to introduce—and thank—the most recent: Nancy Milio, of Chapel Hill, N.C., who has joined us as our web news editor. A professor emeritus of Health Policy at University of North Carolina, she helped start and chairs a nonprofit organization that develops rental housing for families living below half the median income, and serves on her town Planning Board. Guli Fager, of New York, N.Y., joins us as assistant Milestones editor, focusing on bringing more depth and detail to our coverage of marriages and unions, as a reader earlier this year suggested we might do. Also joining us to help with the Milestones department are Mary Julia Street, of Ambler, Pa., and Melissa Minnich, formerly one of our interns and now of Pittsburgh, Pa. Mary Julia and Melissa will help longstanding Milestones Editor Christine Rusch, of Ann Arbor, Mich., with the research necessary to write the Milestones department, which inspires so many of our readers. For the help of these new volunteers and particularly of our faithful longstanding ones, who’ve not been named here, we are truly indebted and deeply thankful. And we are thankful for you, too, dear readers. May many blessings be yours.