What I’m thankful for before I grab a cattle prod and head out for Black Friday

Yum, a Tofurky!
Yum, a Tofurky!

Hi everyone, you may notice that the blog looks way different. I asked my ridiculously talented friend Stacy Nguyen to make it awesome. We are still experimenting with the features and getting everything to work right, but I hope the new blog format will be easier and more fun to navigate. Please do me a favor and surf through it and leave feedback and suggestions in the comment section; just keep in mind that we nonprofit humor writers have very low self-esteem, and a mean comment may result in my hiding in the bathroom, rocking back and forth, gnawing on a piece of wheat gluten…which is also what I do on days when we have board meetings.


Thanksgiving is coming up this week, a time for us all to put aside everything, gather around friends and family, and reflect on all the things for which we are—OMG, a laptop/tablet with 13.3-inch touchscreen, 4GB DDR3 memory, and 128GB Solid state drive for only 500 bucks at Best Buy if you are one of the first people into the store on Black Friday!!! Hells yeah, I’m totally packing a cattle prod and some empty Snapple bottles and camping out in front of the store on Thursday evening!

Where was I? Oh yeah, being thankful and junk. Every year around this time, during commercial breaks of my favorite shows I like to list some of the people and things for whom I am grateful. I know, it’s a little cheesy, and we really shouldn’t wait till Thanksgiving to express appreciation. Nonetheless, here is the partial list, in no particular order.

  • My staff: Never have I worked with a group of people who are more dedicated and brilliant. Sometimes you guys drive me nuts, pushing me to do stuff by saying things like “we need to agree on a common message about our organization” and “please connect with this donor” and “I need you to review this grant before I send it in” and “Vu, can I please take next weekend off, I haven’t seen my family in a month, my daughter cries when she sees me,” etc. But you make me want to be a better person, since I see how much to you give to our clients and to our community every day.
  • Our Board: I respect and fear you in equal measures. You put in countless hours every month tackling complex tasks and issues, and then, heck, you donate money to the organization. I know your time is limited and you carry so much weight on your shoulders, and I keep asking you to do more. You guys have jobs and families, and the meetings and retreats and events and committees take up so much time. Thank you for all you do and all you give to lift up our community.
  • Our funders: I’ve been criticizing the nonprofit funding structure a lot (here, and here, and here), and will continue to do so. But the individual program officers I meet and work with are wonderful and thoughtful individuals, most of whom are facing tremendous pressures from all sides—community, nonprofit leaders, trustees, founders, etc. Thank you for all the balancing you must do each day because our work cannot be done without your support and advocacy.
  • Our donors: Thank you for all you give. We appreciate every single gift and never take anything for granted. The economy is still rough, and I know not everyone has a lot to spare. You could save up and buy an awesome new phone or a touchscreen laptop/tablet combo with 4GB DDR3 memory with 128GB solid state drive, but instead you choose to support our programs that help low-income immigrant/refugee families. Thank you.
  • Our volunteers: We have so many great volunteers, and I suck at remembering everyone’s names. But I’m always inspired by how much time you put into all the stuff we do. On Saturdays many of you wake up early to help prepare lunch for our kids. After the program, you meet to discuss how to make the program better. Many of you help on various committees, giving your time and skills and expertise. Our programs cannot function without you, especially since the staff keep harassing me for at least one weekend off each month.
  • Our partners: The schools and other nonprofits we collaborate with, thank you for being so cool and so dedicated. We’ve had some kick-ass projects working with you, from taking kids to clean up hiking trails, to teaching them to write poetry or do some amazing photography, to growing stuff in the P-Patch, to pushing for systemic policy changes. We learn all sorts of stuff working with you.
  • Our clients: The kids and families we serve, thank you for inspiring all of us with your resilience and determination. Some of you face unimaginable challenges, being in a new land, trying to build a better life. Every day I am inspired, like that one rainy day when I felt dejected and hopeless, and I arrived at one our programs to find our elders learning to vote, helped by kids from our other programs. On the darkest of days, it is usually you who lift up my spirit and restore my faith in the world.
  • My colleagues: One of the best parts of this work is that I get to meet all sorts of passionate, inspiring people. Whether you’re working on domestic violence, or youth development, or encouraging people to bike, or addressing human trafficking, or encouraging art or dance or recycling, or making sure our elders are not as lonely, or pushing politicians to change unfair policies, or empowering marginalized communities, or helping the homeless, or feeding the hungry, or mentoring, or making sure small children start learning early, and all sorts of other stuff, thank you for all you do to make the world better. I am especially grateful to the other EDs in the field, to whom I complain, with whom I drink, from whom I borrow templates, with whom I drink some more.
  • My Family: My wife, who puts up with so much, such as all my evening and weekend meetings, which leave me not always doing my fair share of the housework; our little baby, Viet, who has prevented me from sleeping these past eight months; and the rest of my family, who still don’t really understand what I do and who sometimes ask me if I found a real job yet: I’m grateful that you are here to remind me of why life is worth living.
  • Our friends: I’m really thankful that we have some great friends around us, who have been so helpful these past few months as we struggled trying to stay sane as new parents. The meal train, the offers for babysitting, the putting up with a screaming infant so we could go out and eat a dinner sitting down at a table like human beings once a while, you don’t know how much that does for our sanity.
  • Stacy: Thank you for the countless hours you put into redesigning this blog, especially with my complete cluelessness and freaking out, saying things like “Where’s the About page?! Where is it?! Oh…it’s at the top of every page page…”

I am thankful for so many more things, like my health and my senses, which allow me to see and hear and touch and think and talk about stuff. I am thankful for my job, which allows me to have a home and to pay for childcare and organic blueberries. I am thankful for the internet, and for the writers and actors of my favorite shows, and for vegan food technology that created things like soy nuggets and sausage. I am thankful that I can vote, and that we live in relatively safe and not war-torn country.

Finally, I am thankful for NWB readers. Thank you for reading these long, rambling posts each week, for commiserating regarding all the crazy, stressful things we deal with all the time in this field. I get emails and comments once a while saying nice stuff about the blog. These things keep me going, not just with the blogging, but with the work itself. Thank you.

All right, that should do it with the heartfelt emotions and crap this Thanksgiving. Next week, we are back to irreverence, sarcasm, and insulting people who have bad grammar, who are gluten-free, or worst of all, people with bad grammar who are gluten-free.