Is celebrating Thanksgiving during a pandemic a sign of madness? Is there anything to be grateful for when so many have died, so many have lost their jobs, so many are isolated and fearful?
No, it’s not madness. And yes, there’s everything to be grateful for.
La Rochefoucauld’s maxim, “The moderation of people who are fortunate comes from the calmness that good fortune gives to their temperament,” bites hard. It’s easy to be grateful when life moves along a paved road of our own choosing. When life turns onto a muddy trail we didn’t choose, it’s hard to remember that today’s setbacks and losses don’t erase the gifts and blessings we’ve received in the past; it’s harder to call to mind the gifts and blessings we enjoy in the present; it’s harder yet to anticipate our ultimate happiness.
Because recalling our blessings in times of trouble is so hard—so unnatural—it’s important to make a conscious effort to balance the scales. I know…I should do this every day. Instead, I get caught up in the flow of events. That’s why having a day on the public calendar set aside for giving thanks is so valuable; it reminds me gently to recall the personal and communal blessings that have come my way.
Name it and praise it
Any list of blessings is bound to be incomplete. Rather than giving in to the fear of forgetting something important, I’d rather get on with it and deal with regrets later.
How can one adequately thank God for the gift of life and the existence of everyone and everything around us? In moments of elation, moments of loss, and all moments between, He offers his friendship and guidance.
I give thanks for my immediate and extended family: my wife, children, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, sister, aunt, cousins, nephews, nieces, and those who have gone to their rest. They are my joy and inspiration.
The months-long closure and limited reopening of our churches have brought home to me how important our faith community is. Clergy and lay people together reached out to our brothers and sisters, kept the flame alive and worked hard to reopen our spiritual home safely.
Like everyone else I deeply appreciate the people who occupied the front lines as we face this pandemic. The medical staff and essential service workers put themselves at risk when the direction and outcome of the pandemic were so uncertain. Not to be overlooked, others kept our stores, gas stations, charities, and schools functioning.
My own spell of unemployment reinforced my admiration and thanks for the business people who have struggled to keep their businesses open to provide necessary services and maintain the employment of as many people as possible. Business is risky at the best of times. Facing the unknown with so many jobs at stake is not a challenge I would have welcomed.
I also appreciated the public officials who have endured unimaginable pressure to make decisions on our behalf. For months now, they have evaluated conflicting medical advice and weighed competing interests with no time for sober second thought. When the pandemic has passed, hindsight will deliver a verdict on the effectiveness of their actions. Their good faith, though, shouldn’t be in question.
With hope, I look forward to Thanksgiving 2021, when the worst of the pandemic and its after-effects may be behind us. With gratitude, I look back on 2020 and the many lessons it has taught me.