This year, 2020, has presented us all with unique challenges. It is a year that is sure to stand unparalleled in American history and around the world.
Just consider this limited list of what has filled the headlines: Families have lost loved ones, jobs and business due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A reckoning on racism has taken place as protestors marched through the streets of cities across the country this summer to condemn police brutality.
Deadly wildfires devastated Australia in January, and earlier this month, a contentious presidential election rocked the United States, raising political tensions among families and friend groups.
These topics are hardly what we would like to talk about over a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. How can we — and should we — be thankful during a time of such upheaval and momentous change, so much of which is negative? Is it even possible to be thankful?
I believe the answer is a resounding yes.
Showing our appreciation for the people in our lives and the opportunities afforded to us as Americans is more important now than ever. Embracing a posture of gratitude will not only reorient your own mindset, it will be an encouragement to those around you.
An easy place to start is by offering a token of thanks to those who have served self-sacrificially this year — including the faithful first responders and hospital workers, local business owners and the scientists who have worked to create a vaccine in record time.
In addition to those on the front lines, it’s important to express gratitude to the people in our immediate circles.
This holiday season, many have cancelled travel plans and long-standing traditions in order to limit physical contact and keep family members safe and healthy. However, we must not neglect to connect with one another. This is especially important for our elderly relatives who feel the social distancing more than most.
This Thanksgiving, make an extra effort to call, FaceTime or hold a Zoom group call with family and friends.
The truth is that we may be largely unaware of the trials our neighbors are facing. The economic downturn means that many are struggling financially, while others are experiencing loneliness and isolation. Now is a great time to check in on your next-door neighbor, donate to your local food bank or call an old friend just to talk.
How can we be thankful when facing the national challenges of this year?
Addressing inequities and the problems that our country currently faces and being grateful for the opportunities that have been given to us seem to be polar opposites. But they are not mutually exclusive at all. We have much to be grateful for as Americans.
For example, individual liberty, rule of law and economic freedom make the United States unique in the world. In the fallout from the events of 2020, we can fully embrace our rights to expression, assembly and the right to petition in order to bring about positive change and form a “more perfect union.”
The idea of “equal opportunity” has inspired generations of Americans, regardless of their means, gender, race or ethnicity. In fact, it has inspired people around the world. As Americans, this is one of the most cherished ideals and is a goal we should ever continue to work towards.
The vast majority of us still believe that we’re all created equal and that anyone should be able to fulfill their dreams here, despite how much their parents had or didn’t have or where they came from.
Ronald Reagan once said: “You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France, and you’d live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk. But anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.”
The effect of the pandemic on our evolving workforce is impacting communities around the country. In order to rebuild going forward and to maximize our nation’s future potential, we must ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to all Americans.
Advancing equal opportunity not only benefits us as individuals, but it also benefits our society as a whole. This is something for which we can all be thankful.
Even in 2020, despite its hardships, we must make every effort to look for what makes us grateful. This is a season to reach out to the individuals, both near and far, who need to hear a word of thanks.
Remember, gratitude is not enough. It only becomes Thanksgiving once it’s expressed to those for whom we are grateful. And as for those greater ideals to which we aspire as a nation, let’s be thankful that we live in a country where those changes are indeed possible.