It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Where did the year go?
Oh yeah, it’s 2020.
I still remember the night in mid-March when the country finally came to grips with the magnitude of the crisis and began to shut down. News broke that Tom Hanks had tested positive for COVID, then maybe 30 minutes or so later, an NBA game was postponed right before tipoff because a Utah Jazz player had tested positive. The NBA swiftly (and correctly) suspended the season right then and there, which had never happened before in the history of the league. Normal life came to a grinding halt. In the coming days, employees would be ordered to work from home. Schools closed. Millions lost their jobs. And the first wave was upon us in full, terrifying force.
Since March, we have been trapped in a haze. A fog. A nightmare. A nefarious alternate universe. This has been the longest year of our lives. Yet it has also flown by.
In a typical year – whatever that is anymore – Thanksgiving would be a time for large family gatherings, full of joy and happiness and good food. But 2020 has had other plans. This will be a Thanksgiving unlike any other in our lives. For hundreds of thousands of families, it will be a somber occasion. Many families have lost a loved one, or have someone in the hospital. Others have loved ones who are on the front lines, exhausted, caring for the thousands of sick. Travel plans have been cancelled. Family members unable to see one another, even if healthy.
Family, friends, loved ones. They are what make life worth living and give meaning to the struggle we all endure on a daily basis. They are how we grieve, and how we heal. To have Thanksgiving under these present circumstances only exacerbates the difficulty.
Given all that we are up against, joy is admittedly hard to come by. I mean, is it even possible to show gratitude?
Despite it all, we all have reasons to be thankful, even if it takes a little longer to think of those reasons this year. Don’t skimp on this exercise!
Focusing on reasons to be thankful helps to put all we are going through in the proper perspctive. If you are religious like myself, you believe that God has tested us this year, but He provides the strength and blessings to see us through. If you are not religious, that’s ok too. It is still an exercise worth pondering for a few minutes, whether alone on the couch or around the kitchen table.
In my own case, I find myself more thankful for my family than ever before. Not that I didn’t appreciate them in the past, but in 2020, their value in my life is front and center. They are my life. I am blessed to have amazing parents, a wonderful sister, a niece and two nephews, and a loving extended family. I also have a group of friends, who, at this point, might as well be family!
As for my parents, they are getting older, and I worry all the time about their well-being. This has been a tough year for them both, with unexpected hospital stays for non-COVID reasons. My mom especially has had a rough go of it the last few weeks, but it is a blessing that she is home for the holiday. My dad, per usual, has worn many hats. He is retired, but I’m sure he’d probably say caring for me is a full-time job. I appreciate all that he does for me to keep me employed, productive, and focused on the future.
I’m also grateful to have a new nephew this year, Tate, proof that good things can still happen in 2020! Tate’s mom, my sister, who is a first grade teacher, has navigated this strange world of hybrid learning as well as she can, and I am very proud of her for how she has taken on this challenge head on.
There are many other reasons to be thankful. I am still employed. I can still walk. I am still able to do public speaking. Animals in our backyard continue to entertain me (case in point below).
This wasn’t the year I envisioned, but it’s a year that has forced me to think long and hard about the direction of my life and what I value, and for that it has been an education.
I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If anyone in your family is sick or struggling, I will keep them in my prayers.
And don’t forget to make time to laugh! Even if it’s at your uncle passed out on Zoom in a turkey coma.