Thanksgiving Day often has been gray, with the leaves gone from the trees and winter beginning to blow in. But this 2020 Thanksgiving is especially gray, with a somber tone of loss. I find myself visualizing Thanksgiving tables around the country with an empty chair – a chair once occupied by a grandparent, mother, or favorite uncle. These were not numbers in the country’s 258,000 + people lost to COVID-19 but lives well lived.
As much as the loss of these too-many lives, I am saddened by the divisions that the reactions to this virus has produced, turning a deadly health care issue into a political issue. I recently called a donor to thank her for her contribution and wished her a “safe” day. She responded with a blast of angry comments about evil – the evil of a hoax she called COVID. There was little time to catch my breath, and no point in saying I believe in science …the Earth is not flat …astronauts did land on the moon… and, yes, Elvis is dead.
Evil is alive and well, and conspiracy theories are one such toxic evil. They have separated families who may otherwise join each other at the table. They threaten the lives of many who are being careful but are often put at risk by those who refuse to wear a mask, and a government that has not discovered responsibility.
This pandemic was called a hoax by the president, even though he knew in January that it was very dangerous. And people died. Many governors refused to require masks and encouraged large gatherings. And people died. Health care professionals were pushed aside at a time they were needed most. And people died. Yes, I believe evil exists.
Despite all the losses and the lost opportunities to save lives, there is much for which I am grateful.
I am grateful this Thanksgiving for all the sacrifices made by health care workers, the doctors and nurses who have worked 15- and 18-hour days, sacrificing sleep and risking their lives. I am grateful for the grocery workers, farmers and truckers who have fed our country. I am grateful for the essential workers who have kept our nation moving at personal risk to themselves. I am grateful for those in the communication industry who bring the light of truth through disinformation and conspiracy theories.
I find the words of Kristen Clark Taylor, author and former Director of Media Communications for the Bush administration, inspiring:
“Let’s be bold in our thinking as this disease is in its deadliness. Let’s let the numbers – the lives lost, the resulting grief, the unimaginable pain— order our steps as we move towards Thanksgiving.
Let’s train our brains to not just seek, but find gratitude, even in these dark days. Let’s get audacious with our gratitude.”