By Wendy Anderson 

What am I thankful for? 

Recently, someone wrote to me that their head was just not in the right space. A few years ago, their statement would have brought forth a flood of sympathy. I’d have done everything I could to aid them, applying whatever verbal balm at my disposal. Reading it in 2021, all I could think is: “Whose head is in the right space these days?” 

The past years weigh heavily on us all. I don’t think I have a single friend who is not dealing with the death of a loved one, serious health or financial concerns and a host of other challenges. Skagway is collectively dealing with chronic stress. 

So what am I thankful for? 

It seems trite to fall back on the tried and true: thankful for family, community, etcetera. We fall back on these things because of the truth they hold. That’s a tough one for a lot of Skagway folks. So many who land in this beautiful valley arrive carrying substantial emotional baggage. We are the island of misfit toys. Holidays can be tough. 

The last of my immediate family passed in 2020. For my first Christmas alone last year, I took our holiday family photos out of the album and framed them to be part of my decorations. While I no longer sit at a table sharing a meal with them, they are present. The strength they showed in hardship and the values they taught guide me forward. 

I am thankful for my family. 

Family extends far beyond those who share my blood. They are the Skagway elders who inspire me with their stories of the past and their determination in facing the future. They are the restaurant and store workers who greet me by name and ask about my day. They are the volunteers at our local clubs, serving on our local government boards and assembly who selflessly give their time to make our community a better place. 

I make a practice of listening to the news every morning. It helps put life in perspective. I listen to stories of homelessness knowing I am warm in my house. That I have food to eat and a bed to rest in at day’s end. I listen to stories of war refugees and victims of racism knowing when I leave my house, I walk into a safe community. Where if I am in need, if I put out a call, it will be answered. 

I am thankful for my community. 

I am thankful for the puppy kisses I receive daily.

I am thankful for the people who wave as I drive past. 

I am thankful to live in a time and a place where women are free to speak, to succeed. 

I am thankful to live in a country that, while far from perfect, allows us to improve. 

Life is not perfect. It never will be. I am thankful to experience this glorious mess with you all. I cannot imagine a better place to be than Skagway, Alaska.