As Thanksgiving arrives this week, it’s understandable if we find ourselves struggling to be thankful.
COVID-19 has certainly made 2020 a year we’d all like to forget. It has taken and endangered so many lives, it has kept us apart from extended family and friends, it has wreaked havoc on our economy, schools and healthcare systems, and even the preventive measures we’ve taken have unfortunately divided us politically.
Despite those challenges, there are still blessings that sustain us. Looking ahead, early reports of viable vaccines indicate better days are on the horizon, while looking back, we can see how past generations weathered even tougher times and still went on to thrive.
The Thanksgiving story we all know is a good example. Although it may not have happened exactly as we were taught in elementary school, it is true that the Pilgrims suffered greatly on their voyage over and in the winter that followed four centuries ago. Their famous 1621 feast was a hopeful sign that the worst was behind them.
In 1918, meanwhile, America went through an even larger pandemic than the one now, and that was on top of fighting in a world war that, overall, claimed up to 22 million lives and injured 20 million more. That time also lacked the medical expertise we have today and the technology that makes it much easier to stay in touch with loved ones and to work. Nevertheless, they endured.
Another advantage we have over that era can be seen in farming, which has kept our food costs remarkably steady for years. A good example of that can be found in the annual survey American Farm Bureau does to see how much it takes to feed a family on Thanksgiving. Last year’s total was below $5 a person, and the cost for a family of 10 was just a penny higher than what it was in 2018.
Speaking of that meal, it’s possible that the turkey might not have become its centerpiece had Benjamin Franklin gotten his way. In a letter to his daughter, he thought it might be a better national symbol than the eagle, since it was native to North American and was “a bird of courage.”
As for the holiday itself, it’s worth noting that Kentucky has a couple of important ties to Thanksgiving, and both involved our most famous citizen, President Abraham Lincoln. He helped settle its date at the end of November – Congress locked it into place in the 1940s – and he also is believed to be the first president to “pardon” the turkey, doing so at the request of his son.
When we sit down to eat this week and reflect on the good things in our lives, we must not forget to offer thanks to those who are doing their part to keep us safe, healthy and able to live as normally as possible under the circumstance. That includes our first responders and medical providers, utility workers and those who staff our restaurants and businesses, which need our support now more than ever.
I also want to thank those who have donated their time and resources to help those in need in our community, because it is making a difference. Our food banks and shelters are more critical than usual, especially with winter just around the corner and COVID spikes on the rise. If you know of someone who is isolated because of the pandemic, take a moment to check on them when you can as well. That could make a world of difference to them.
If I could ask for anything more, it would be for more patience and cooperation from us all. Those twin intangibles are the bridge that will help take us to the lives we had not too long ago. The goal is to get as many as possible to the day where all of this is a memory rather than reality.
With that in mind, Deb and I hope you have a wonderful, and a safe, Thanksgiving. Thanks for all you do.