Is it possible to be safe this Thanksgiving and holiday season? That’s the question that millions of families will be asking themselves during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. This holiday season will be unlike any in my lifetime as we face the challenges presented by COVID-19. It’s hard to believe that this invisible virus, which didn’t exist a year ago, is now in control of our reality, a reality that many Americans must account for in order to protect themselves and the vulnerable members of their families as they head into the holiday season.
While it is clear that the number of cases of COVID-19 are increasing, after spending months alone or mostly solitary the question is are many Americans willing to continue to make that sacrifice? According to the Center for Disease Control, they advise bringing “your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils” to holiday gatherings. Additionally, the CDC suggests that you should wear a mask at all times except for while eating or drinking and they advise that meals should occur outdoors. With these types of restrictions, is Thanksgiving the same or does it merely become just another event with no meaning at all. It’s difficult to see how the true meaning of Thanksgiving could remain the same under such harsh and drastic circumstances.
Despite this bizarre new reality, my hope is that people adapt to these new circumstances and still find a reason to be thankful. At the time of me writing this column, over 245,000 Americans have died from COVID and there have been roughly 11 million cases. It goes without saying that the virus is wreaking havoc on many unsuspecting Americans, people who never expected their lives to come to such a sudden end, or the spouses, children, relatives and friends who lost someone they deeply loved. The fact that we are still among the living should be reason enough to give God thanks as we go about the holiday.
So often we find ourselves moving through life, following our daily routines, constantly grinding and chasing the next shiny object, but do we actually stop to think about the most important gift, the gift of life? How often do you stop to give thanks for the blessings you have received regardless of what situation you may find yourself in today? Having life means you have a chance to continue to improve. In tragedies like COVID-19 there is always a silver lining, and, in this instance, the pandemic has humbled a great many of us. So many people walk around arrogantly, believing nothing can touch them because of stature, wealth or perhaps even fame, however the coronavirus treats us all the same. It doesn’t distinguish by race, ethnicity, sexual-orientation, party affiliation, or class—in other words, when it comes to COVID-19, we’re all equal and there’s something about that reality that should give us all humility and grace.
Perhaps this is the reality check that America needed. A check on greed, a check on over-consumption, a check on walking away from God and faith. The 2020 election cycle demonstrated just how much politics have divided us, so much so that we’ve become unrecognizable to ourselves. Hopefully, when the dust settles from the election, rather than continued strife and division, a sense of calmness will prevail and there will be calls for us to return to civility, norms, and the moral standards that have made the United States the greatest country in the world. I worry deeply about what the future holds for our nation if we do not take this unprecedented time to reflect and reunite.
While it has certainly not been easy to adjust to this reality or this “new normal,” surviving this pandemic will require unity, something that our country has been lacking for far too long. As we practice the safety guidelines outlined by our foremost doctors and scientists, let us also return to our highest ideals. This Thanksgiving we should each remember the standards and ideals laid by our founding fathers, that the United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and freedom for all of the world. Let us give thanks that we are alive. Let us give thanks for another day and the opportunity to be better tomorrow than we were today, and certainly better than we were yesterday because there are people who do not have this opportunity. This is our goal and perhaps the pandemic is our impetus or our call to action. This cannot be accomplished alone; the burden is on each and every one of us. Be thankful and give grace, and never lose sight of just how incredible life is because one merely needs to look at the damage caused by the pandemic to see that life is precious and life is fleeting.