Traditionally, November is a month devoted to the expression of gratitude for the blessings of the previous year. Perhaps it is more challenging in a year that features a worsening global pandemic, blatant racial injustice, a crushing recession, violence, natural disasters and heated partisan politics. Does this mean a day of Thanksgiving and gratitude is off the table?
There is much to celebrate in 2020: if you are healthy, if you or someone you know has recovered from COVID-19 without lingering symptoms, if you have a job — especially one that can be done from home — have been untouched by violence, and if you have found a place to investigate how systemic racism undermines our whole democracy. You may not be comfortable, but you are on a path forward.
Whether your presidential or other political favorites were victorious or not, we can all be grateful to live in a democratic republic where differences are worked out through ballots, debates, and yes, the courts, rather than through violence and oppression. The recent elections give us a lot to figure out about what bridges need to be built to approach our ideal of ONE NATION under God. Purpose and a continuing call toward a MORE PERFECT UNION are good things.
I’m grateful to live in a world with technology that was only science fiction a few decades ago. There are dangers in our high-tech world, but there are also unlimited possibilities for health care, communication, discovery, transportation and education.
Vaccine science, since the beginning of the century — and advanced by multiple Republican and Democratic administrations since — has made it possible to develop vaccines exponentially faster. I have no doubt that this capability and the search for and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines will spur hundreds of other innovations that may give us mitigation strategies in future pandemics and for some of our lingering battles with other deadly viruses and diseases.
Although it is impossible to atone for the murders of Black men and women in 2020, maybe this time the atrocities will accelerate progress toward a racially equitable and just society.
Our world has gone through multiple economic downturns across multiple generations, but this one might accelerate our movement to a new economy in which no one is left behind. Some jobs will be gone forever, some may open for those who pursue additional education, and entirely new ones will be created. We need everyone, rather than a population of haves and have-nots, to power the next normal in our economy. Democracies flourish only where there are equitable economic opportunities.
ZOOM and other technologies have made it possible to continue educational progress during unprecedented challenges. And, I am grateful to institutions, educators, families and students for making the best of our exceedingly challenging teaching/learning situation. I, for one, also have discovered there are at least some meetings that can be done very efficiently via ZOOM, reducing travel costs and assaults on our environment. There, I’ve said it — I don’t hate ZOOM!
My quest to live in gratitude is all the more important during a year of tremendous challenges. The experience of sadness, loss, and conflict can actually help us appreciate joy, relationships, and peace. For all of us, if we can keep our attention on what’s going right and see the kindness of others, we’re happier, kinder, and more forgiving. Creating an internal space to live a grateful life is a very good decision.