A Pint of Stout Gratitude

McGanns pub

Five years ago, I took a trip to Ireland with my best friend. We had been planning the trip for years, and as preparation, we made homemade piggy banks out of pickle jars with Guinness stickers all over them to keep on our kitchen counters. We planned to stuff them full of change, hoping that after a year’s time they would surprise us with enough money to get us started on our big trip. Unfortunately, for most of that time, I was in graduate school and often resorted to using that change to buy groceries or emergency therapeutic Mexican food.

We romanticized about the perfect time of year, spring or late summer, to be in Ireland, and all the amazing things we would do in the perfect weather. We even had a really good fantasy going about meeting a handsome Irishman in a pub who would buy us unlimited Guinness. We would talk the entire afternoon away, bathing in his awesome accent.

Once the Hollywood rose-colored glasses faded from reality, we realized that the only time we could both go to Ireland was in late November. It would be cold. It would mean not spending the Thanksgiving holiday with our families. We were both strapped for money and had nothing put aside. So, with all the odds against us, we decided, “This is the perfect time to go to Ireland!”

We arrived in Ireland, via the airport in Shannon, in darkness, at the wee hour of 5:55am on Thanksgiving morning. Having been awake for twenty-one hours, we exercised our good judgment and rented a car, drove on the “wrong” side of the road and started our journey as the sun began to rise. After staring at the mystical fog coming from the water over the Cliffs of Moher and listening to its powerful drumming rhythms as water merged with greater water, we found ourselves aware of the beauty becoming present we had dreamed about. In my journal from the trip, I wrote that the experience was energizing to our souls because we could feel “all the creative compassion of God’s work” present in that place.

With our hearts full of gratitude, we drove through a little town called Doolin, while making our way to Galway, our destination for the night. We stopped at McGann’s pub in Doolin. Entering with the feeling of God’s great creativity and a hungry stomach, I immediately felt like I was entering the home of a relative I’d been waiting to visit my whole life. A sign behind the bar advertised Thanksgiving Dinner. (The picture in this blog is from that very scene).

In honor of the warm-fuzzy-heartfelt-real-life-cheesy-bliss we felt, we had Fish and Chips and Guinness, and in that moment, our friendship was perfect. Our lives were resting in a simple moment where everything was as it was meant to be, and I felt closer to my own family at home than I had ever felt before. The promise of the return to them at Christmas was all the more meaningful.

When have you experienced a great sense of home when you were far away from it? Where were you? What parts of the senses did it evoke in you? I have spent time meditating on that moment each Thanksgiving since, and oftentimes, it has become the moment in my day when I feel the most grateful for those who are with me, who have gone before me, and who will come into my path on another journey to home.

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