By Derrick Bertram
Thanksgiving is known to most Americans as the day families across the United States sit down and eat turkey together, watch football, and go Christmas shopping the next day on Black Friday. Sometimes, we forget what Thanksgiving truly is about: giving thanks.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks to God for all he has given us: things that vary from objects we possess to our family and friends. We, as Catholics, should give thanks to God for sending his son, Jesus, to die on the cross and pay the ultimate price for our sins.
I personally thank God for all he has given me: a home, a family, friends, my talents and my various experiences. One of those experiences I’m really thankful for was an unforgettable experience that happened over a year ago.
After the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC 2007) in Columbus, Ohio, I was inspired by the teenagers performing onstage. They were singing, dancing and leading the songs and prayers throughout the weekend. I wanted to share my talents, which God has given me, with other Catholic teenagers from across the country. So in 2009, I auditioned to be a youth animator for NCYC in Kansas City. After I received an e-mail saying I was accepted, I went to the Kansas City area that July and met 62 other Catholic teens who would share this same experience with me. There, we rehearsed the dances, skits and songs we would perform in November. The weekend went by fast and, before I knew it, the week of NCYC arrived.
NCYC 2009 was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life. I was given the opportunity to sing and dance in front of more than 20,000 Catholic youths and adults at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I even got to perform as the prodigal son in a musical skit entitled God Rejoices. One of the most touching and awe-inspiring moments of NCYC, from an animator’s perspective, was the last night when we celebrated Mass together. Seeing more than 20,000 people making the sign of the cross together at the beginning and end of Mass gave me goose bumps. The hardest part was leaving Kansas City, saying goodbye to all the other animators I have now become very close friends with. It was hard to believe I would never get to have an experience like this again.
Ever since NCYC 2009, I take time now and then to thank God for giving me the talents I have and for providing me with an experience most teenagers don’t experience very often. I also thank God for my family and friends who gave me the support to be able to do this. Now I get to experience NCYC again, through pictures and videos on the large screen showing me doing my solo as the prodigal son. I thank God and my friends and family for recording those experiences, too, so that I could remember them long into the future.
I am using my experience as a youth animator at NCYC as an example of what we should be doing every Thanksgiving: not only giving thanks to God for our friends, families, homes, food, etc., but also for opportunities to live our greatest experiences. This Thanksgiving, you should take time to thank God for not only your friends, family and your other possessions, but for giving you the chance to experience moments that you will remember for the rest of your life.
(Derrick Bertram is a senior at Clinton High School, a member of Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, and a member of Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee, DYMC.)