This has been a year for the history books. A pandemic of global proportions, storms and wildfires leaving ruins, economic upheaval, political divide, social injustice, civil unrest, and in dairy and agriculture supply chain disruptions, bankruptcies, dispersals, consolidations and exits.
God’s promises are the blessings through all personal and public loss. This year, we saw loss, but we also saw courage, care and giving.
Whether or not we know someone who recovered from or was lost to Covid-19, we are reminded daily of the rising death toll, the rising number of positive cases. We are reminded daily of families facing evictions, still unemployed, of small businesses having to close, many for good. We see the rise in dairy herd dispersals and farm sales that were underway even before the pandemic. We see the shifting sands of rural landscapes.
It’s a lot to take in, what 2020 has delivered. But notice how folks in the midst of ruin are often more thankful than those going about their daily lives without a problem or care?
A family losing home, belongings and memories to a disaster hold each other close in thankfulness. Citizens of a community devastated by storm help each other pick up the pieces. When a farmer is gravely ill, neighbors gather to harvest the crops. When lives are lost, loved ones are lifted up and memories are shared.
A thankful heart does not change the circumstances or stop the pain of loss, rather gratitude offers a path to our resilience. Without gratitude, there can be no hope. The bird that sings in the midst of a storm is no doubt thankful for its perch and made stronger by its song.
The act of giving thanks strengthens us.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving 2020, it will be different for many of us. For some, the normal family gatherings will occur, for others it will not. Some will mark a first Thanksgiving without a loved one. Others will be celebrating the addition of new family members. Many will be separated from gathering if a family member is under quarantine for the virus. Some will spend the day working in earnest to get a home or barn under roof before winter after devastating summer storms. Some will find it difficult to buy groceries and prepare a meal. Some will navigate political differences that have sharp edges and create splinters.
For my mother, it will be the first Thanksgiving without my younger sister. And, because of the pandemic, and a member of our family’s exposure to the virus, with her underlying health, mom will spend Thanksgiving alone — except for telephone, ‘hugs’ (and a meal) through the glass door, and prayer. Many of our elders will see Thanksgiving 2020 this way.
We are accustomed to the traditions of gathering around a meal – representing a celebration of harvest. We are accustomed to gathering as family, extended family, friends and community, of having the opportunity to look around at family, friends, home, hearth, sustenance, to readily count our blessings in conversation, see our blessings in the faces of children, feel them in the warmth of a hug.
But to give thanks in ALL things is an action we are reminded to engage in despite our circumstances.
The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was such an occasion after profound loss. The community meal with prayer and thanksgiving came after a first successful harvest, which had been preceded by the plague of disease, hunger and fear, followed by a spring and summer of drought. Faith continued. A harvest sustained them, and they gave thanks.
We live in a world today of high-tech distractions from the things that are most important. 2020 brought events that got our attention. Time stood still, and families spent time together.
Whether we are in the storm or seeing our way clear of it, a thankful heart opens us to faith, hope and optimism. A thankful heart gives strength to sing instead of sitting quietly to dwell in the dark.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:18
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” Psalms 28:7