Black Friday Becomes Blessings Friday At My House

It was easy to skip the malls and outlets and boutiques today. After all, I’d avoided post-Thanksgiving shopping for the past two years.

It takes little to change your direction, once you’ve changed your mind.

I spent the first Thanksgiving at a friend’s. Well, Gail is more than a friend. She breathes by doing for others, so when you go to her house for dinner, she serves as much love as food. And she serves a lot of food. There was baked turkey, smoked turkey, spicy meatballs, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, chicken wings (real ones, fresh ones, fried by her best friend, Dorian). There were green beans, ham, cornbread dressing, and a bunch of desserts whose names I won’t write out loud.

We stood in a circle and uttered what we were thankful for, and we were all thankful for Gail.

Then I went home, where Desi was waiting for leftovers. But an upset stomach (at Thanksgiving, no less, meant he could only have boiled chicken and rice).

On Friday morning, I walked into my well-stocked kitchen (one of the many blessings I counted). I had taken the day off from a job I love (another blessing!). And I spent the day focused on something much more important than shopping: all the ways I’d been blessed since last Thanksgiving.

It is impossible to count all your blessings in a day. Two days actually isn’t enough, but it’s a start. So yes, today became Blessings Friday. It also became a second Thanksgiving. I put the second turkey into the IMG_5358oven. I bowled the collard greens and cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes and meatballs (Yes, the ones from Gail’s, which were outtasight). And when everything was ready, voilá – Second Thanksgiving – a second day to reflect on the many blessings we get every day, every week without thought, without words, without remembering the next day.

Millions of people spent today looking for bargains, finding deals, traversing from place to place to find happiness in a box or bottle or package. Many other people skipped shopping to keep attention focused on a tragic killing in Ferguson, Missouri that becomes uglier and uglier with each passing day.

It’s so easy to change our behavior, when we slow down to think about it, when we stop to look around, when we mean it. We – all of us – made Black Friday a holiday – except we forgot to make it celebrate something.

Now it can.

In my home, there is no more Black Friday. There is only a second day to count the many blessings my family and I have had through the year and to be thankful in advance for those to come.

If you think you don’t have many, just look around and see what’s there: the beautiful smiles of friends, the funny stories of family, the amazing memories etched into our souls of special moments that we know changed us. How do we change our lives by outrageous spending every year on the day after we give thanks? We put ourselves in debt. We accumulate things rather than wealth. We don’t focus on thanks, but focus on gimme.

Yes, this was a day to count my blessings – and to eat more turkey. And you know what? The second turkey was almost as good as the first! Happy Blessings Friday! Happy Second Thanksgiving!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

 

 

“The Butler” deserves watching again and again

Timing is everything.

I was reminded of that as I watched “The Butler,” Lee Daniels’ powerful tale of Cecil Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 7.43.34 AMGaines, a butler who serves eight presidents at the White House, through the civil rights movement, the Vietnam Conflict and his son’s own battle for equality.

The film’s all-star cast includes Hollywood’s best, Forest Whitaker and television’s best Oprah Winfrey – both in performances that deserved Oscars.

But the 2013 was released in the same season as “12 Years A Slave.” Steve McQueen’s heart-rending tale – based on a true story as “The Butler” was – ignited a new national discussion about slavery and included a searing performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role. The film demanded that audiences watch a free, educated man turned into animal. His rescue and return to his family was a triumph.

“The Butler” never stood a chance at the Oscars.

And that is a shame because, in any other year, “The Butler” is the best film of the year. As is, it’s one of the best films ever made.

My hope is that people will revisit as I did on a recent afternoon, understanding that even as it entertains, it teaches.

And perhaps, like me, the last line of the film will cause them to sob.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

An unexpected gift brings joy

The event itself was a gift.

I moderated the recent first ever Latina Summit sponsored by the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the river at the General Motors Renaissance Center. Three women of substance offered worthy observations about business and success in hopes their words might help someone seeking to make strides in both.

There were role models on the panel and scattered throughout the audience. There was great camaraderie of spirit. There was great food.

But before the afternoon ended, there also was a moment to left me dumbstruck.  A scarfwoman I’d never me walked up to thank me for participating, to tell me she appreciated what I offer through my newspaper column and what I said as I moderated the panel. I thanked her and complimented her attire, including a beautiful scarf of lavendar, turquoise, green and blue – my four favorite colors.

“I’d like you to have it,” she said as she took it off. I did what any self-respecting woman would and said, “Oh, no.”

But she insisted. So I did what any woman who loves a good gift would: I accepted it with gratitude and humility.

What she did I had done before:  Someone complimented a bracelet. I took it off and gave it to them. Someone liked a pen (I use Papermate Inkjoys exclusively.) I offered it to them.

There is such joy and giving and getting that I like doing both as often as possible. So I accepted the scarf, a gift from Sylvia Gucken, assistant to the chairman of the Ideal Group. At the moment she gave it to me, I hope an angel got her wings. But if they didn’t, I know that Sylvia may have made a case for her to get her own.

There should be a special place in heaven for people who make other people’s day.

She made mine!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

Reflection on a thank-you from Lesotho

When I received the request to help build a water pump in the Lesotho village where a young woman I’ve mentored, a woman who is now my friend, is working, I didn’t hesitate. Her name is Jennifer Jiggetts, and she is a journalist. But first, she is a great human being. And she is spending some time as a member of the Peace Corps, teaching and building in Africa.

I didn’t hesitate. It was Jennifer, and it was needed.

I didn’t ask why I should spend money on a water project in Africa when there are people without water in Detroit.

I didn’t ask how spending the money would fit into my budget.

I didn’t think: If I respond to every young person I’ve mentored, I’ll be responding to hundreds of requests.

I decided instantly to help a friend who is helping make lives better for some children. I decided instantly, that no matter how bad things are in some places here, they are always worse where she is.

So I donated. And a month later, I received an envelope from Lesotho. get-attachment-11

It contained a beautiful handmade necklace and matching earrings. It also was filled drawings and a handmade thank you card card decorated with crayoned red stars and blue hearts and green leaves. The card read:

Thank you so much for contributing to our water pump project.

We are forever grateful for your support. Enjoy your goodies! 

Sincerely,

Tsoaing Primary School

The card was touching, but it was the individual messages from the children that took my breath away. Some were in English, some in Sesotho, their mother tongue.  Some were simple, some meticulous, all drawn in the global colors of life. Each child drew him or herself, what they see in their minds when they think of themselves. Some stood near the pump; others pumped water. Some told me their names. Others made sure I knew their gender.

Each reminded me that when the right thing to do comes along, you don’t hesitate. You don’t question. You just do it. You try to change a life, or change a school or change a village. And when you do, hands might just reach across the world to touch you and to change your life.

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Some of the drawings I received this month from children at Tsoaing Primary School.

 

 

 

 

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ROCHELLE RILEY is an award-winning writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

 

 

 

 

Conjuring up Mariel Hemingway
on a Detroit sidewalk

So my friend, Jocelyn, and I had just finished a Happy Moment at the Doubletree Round Bar (We didn’t have an hour, but we had wine, cheese and great gumbo just the same). jocelyn

We headed to the sidewalk, I remembered aloud that Mariel Hemingway, whom I had interviewed five days before,  was slated to speak at the hotel the next day. She was promoting her new movie “Running from Crazy,” and I had just spoken to her about “the Hemingway curse,” which referred to seven members of her family killing themselves. She talked about embracing health and happiness to change her own fate.

Suddenly, I turned and bumped into Mariel Hemingway! She had just arrived and was pulling her suitcase from a car to the front doors.

Mariel“Ms. Hemingway?”

She turned, and I introduced myself, reminded her of our phone interview. She remembered and said kind words about the questions I had asked. And I did something I rarely do. I  let J take a photo of the two of us.

It was a brief moment, not unlike hundreds of others in my line of work. Ms. Hemingway headed in, and J and I continued  down the sidewalk.  Suddenly, nearly in unison, J and I both began chanting “Denzel Washington! Denzel Washington! Denzel Washington!”

Well, it worked with Mariel Hemingway, so we had to give it a try, right?

We had a good laugh at the universe and made a pact to return to that spot. And just in case there was a crack in that sidewalk that lets us conjure up the people we want most to see, I’ve got a list:

Michael Ealy!

Idris Elba!

Matt Damon!

Terrence Howard!

Brad Pitt!

Denzel Washington!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.