Thanksgiving is a time for gathering, sharing and celebrating. In 2020, amid a plague that has killed our loved ones, kept us from family, robbed us of dreams, undermined our economic well-being, and brought new depths of loneliness and uncertainty, what possibly could give us reason to feel gratitude?
Certainly, those who had been given the grace to selflessly take care of our community in those very dark early days, deserve our thanks and prayers. That includes all those who worked in jobs society already deemed essential and those whose jobs are newly appreciated as equally important. And many in our Long Island community are once more on the front line as the virus rages again. And there are new heroes, the scientists and researchers and production teams working against time to find remedies and vaccines and to determine how to distribute them to tame the novel coronavirus. And let’s not forget those who are making sure that on a holiday that centers around the food on the table, all tables will be as full as they can be.
One of the genuinely positive outcomes of this collective trauma is that society has learned to place a new value on public health and likely will retain the insight that the health of each one of us is dependent on the well-being of others. For nine months, this page has addressed communal issues — the policies, laws and politics of this deadly virus. In considering our Thanksgiving message this year, we seek instead to present more introspective revelations. Coping with a killer contagion has given all of us a powerful awareness about our daily lives. We can be thankful this year and in those to come for all the lessons learned:
- Facing down COVID-19 has made us realize how short life really is. When we can safely go about our business, the first things that we should do are the ones that will give our lives more meaning. Time is a curious thing, and many of us fill it and value it differently now, or we should.
- The pandemic has been disruptive, but we can be thankful for that, too. In being forced out of some routines we thought were essential to our lives, we have often discovered new and sometimes better ways of doing things, from the way we work to the importance of checking in on friendships we’ve let lapse. Change is good for the soul.
- We have discovered pleasure in the places most immediate to us. Streets and sidewalks are full, and our neighbors take daily walks with children and pets. We see them and wave, for our smiles are hidden. Local parks and outdoor spaces are more central to our daily routines. We’ve learned to appreciate footpaths through quiet woods, late afternoon walks along the shore, and the gardens and bird feeders in our own backyards. We’re learning again that nature can help fill the void created by the absence of loved ones.
- The pandemic has deepened our appreciation of tables, and sitting around tables, and talking while sitting around tables with the ones we love, sitting and talking about nothing in particular and anything at all, and how good that would feel even if the conversation included that one friend or family member with whom we just don’t agree on anything.
- Our children have brought light into our darkest corners with their kindness toward each other, their insatiable curiosity, and their desire to make the best out of what has been a most difficult situation for them. Some of us derive comfort from the sounds coming through the doors of their rooms as they listen to teachers during online classes.
- Some of our homes now have new family members, kittens and puppies, who otherwise might not have entered our lives. Suddenly, many of us have found we somehow can manage the care of a pet. We help them — and they help heal us.
- The pandemic has made us realize how wonderful it would be if our parents and kids lived with us, all of us together under one roof, and makes us wonder why more of us don’t do that already. We question why we segregate ourselves by age, our younger members missing out on the gift of understanding that comes from the wisdom of a long life, our elders unable to share the exuberance of a young one.
- We are developing our emotional strength, even if we are struggling right now, so we can better appreciate the good times and understand that minor setbacks are just that.
- We are grateful to have become more conscious of the need for gratitude itself, for situations that make us measure our blessings every day. Gratitude, like a muscle, most be worked with focus and purpose to become strong enough that we can rely on it to fill our hearts and direct our attitude.
— The editorial board