Some kids love Christmas, others the Fourth of July. I always loved Halloween. The chance to be, if only for a day, Yoda, Dracula, or a Native American. But it seems that my favorite day now is every day. Everyday has the potential to be Thanksgiving. Every morning I wake up and give thanks…usually audibly.

I give thanks for waking up. I give thanks for having some food to eat. I give thanks for the place that I got to sleep the night before. Thankful that my feet still work, my hands can still draw, and I have another beautiful day to embrace. Is it not enough? I ask you is it not enough to be alive just one day? Is it not magnificent? How lucky we all are!

But, how easily it is to forget.

Yesterday I met a woman who was interested in my cart asking if I had twins in there. When I explained my pilgrimage, she got so excited! She said, “You are like St. Francis of Assisi! I am a Franciscan! Where do you stay? Are you staying with those OWS people?”

I replied that I had camped on the beach the night before and was so lucky to have woken to such a beautiful day! She retorted, “Well good, I think that those people should just go home. They aren’t accomplishing anything!”

I was caught like a dear in headlights. Perplexed by her statement, I thought carefully. I have met quite a few Christians on this journey. It saddens me to report of all the people that I have met they are the ones most predisposed (in fact they are the only group I’ve met like this) and willing to inform me of what I need to do more, usually be saved. Funny they never ask me if I think I am already saved?

I cannot say that I began every conversation with them with compassion. When I feel my timbre change, I stop and realize, compassion before all else. In the past, I’ve been like so many others, more concerned with being “right” than being “correct”, and more worried about being “correct” than being LOVING and COMPASSIONATE.

In this conversation instead I asked her where she thought St. Francis would be…? Would he be with the OWS people, or would he be at home. We then talked of how he walked barefoot all the way to the middle east to be the peace in crusades. We talked further, and ended with a heart felt hug. Lesson learned: Compassion is the way to Compos Mentis.

Last night as I entered Starbucks, I met Cecilia. Cecilia commented on the cart as well, and we ended up sharing a table and talked for  4 hours. Cecilia is 85, and has lived most of her life in Santa Maria. She was the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters. All have passed now as her husband did some years ago from cancer. A drinker, smoker, and diabetic the doctors gave up on him in her opinion when he refused to change. She had one son, but he was killed in a car accident right around his 23 birthday.Cecilia is now alone, and the holidays are hard for her. She has nieces and nephews, but they call rarely and visit less.

Cecilia lives in an elder care facility, but she has traveled to France by herself and likes to dress lavishly. The night I met her she had a pale lavender sweater blouse on, a purple scarf, purple and silver costume jewelry, and purple eyeshadow; one must co-ordinat! When Cecilia was 65 she went back to school to get a degree in French and business, she never finished because she returned home to care for dying sister, but she recounts the time spent studying what she loved, as some of her best years.

Cecilia has fears as we all do, those hidden fears we try not to think about, the kind that wake you up in the middle of the night…Am I going to die? Have I truly used my life to the best benefit? Will I go with dignity? Will I even see it coming? Cecilia prays now…and asked me for my prayers for her.

Cecilia recognizes that she is become senile and has moments of dementia. Many times in our conversation she would ask me the same question—I didn’t mind, but she did.

Last night as I slept at the Fair Grounds underneath a bush, I was regularly approached by ferrel cats that seem to stand as sentinels over their domain. At some point in the night an opossum came at me from all directions before giving up. It isn’t the first time I’ve been bum rushed in the middle of the night. Dogs, pigs, raccoons, squirrels, and most recently an opossum has found me sleeping.

As I’ve been walking this pilgrimage, like St. Francis, animals have become my companions. Horses, cows, and pigs run across fields to “talk” to me, snakes slither over my arms, and deer everywhere approach me. People I’ve stayed with remark in astonishment that, “That cat/dog doesn’t like anyone, but he certainly has taken to you!” Despite that, I found myself shooing this opossum away last night. I was sleepy, and went on my first reaction. But  then I thought about it. Why did I fear it? Instead I should have embraced it…pet it…loved it.

On this Thanksgiving Day, many people worried about me, hoping I would find someone or some family to enjoy the day with. Hoping that I wasn’t alone. Hoping that I was happy. I appreciated all those well wishes, all those heartfelt emails, texts, and calls. I am lucky to have been surrounded by so much love.

But for me, the lesson of the opossum is just as applicable to people. Today, Starbucks was filled with people that “didn’t have anywhere else to go”. Rather than run to comfort myself, it was my honor and hearts desire to comfort rather than be comforted. To be that person that another soul who has no one else to talk to, can talk to. In other words…I got the chance to today to love.

Happy. I hope you were too.

Love, Peace, & Art to all.