As with so many others, I’m having serious difficulty in grasping with how to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

“What” to be thankful for comes much easier. Again, like so many of us, I’m thankful for the people I love, the friends I cherish, the two pair of fuzzy encircled eyes that greet me every morning, the relative health I and those around me enjoy. Certainly having to place the word “relative” in that specific space is part of the overall downcast feelings toward what should be at least one day to kick back and watch the world go by. 

It is that sort of qualification that has led me, and a good number of us, here. 

“How” to be thankful is not nearly as simple as it once was. 

No matter how much we try to overcome and out into perspective what has happened here in 2020, it has become nearly impossible to escape the effects of the bludgeoning we have all taken. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Anyone who claims they’re happy and content as we near the end of the most destructive year in my life, and that of many others, is hiding what lies beneath the surface. The rational among us have all spent far too much time burying our emotions for fear of allowing them to get the better of us. The rational among us have invested far more time than we should need to in suppressing what we really want to say and how we want to say it. We have all been slammed into by numerous car wrecks of life, spun around, dropped, and left by the figurative roadside in a year of truly living dangerously, whether we like it or not. 

It has brought us to that point of having an extremely difficult time expressing “how” to be thankful. 

From a personal side, most of us have fewer friends and family members to be thankful for. Friends that have been lost to the sheer turmoil the entire country has been thrown into by liars, cheats and frauds determined to undermine any real happiness for the masses in exchange for their own greedy, egomaniacal purposes. A nation that has not witnessed such a gaping maw of anger since the age of Bluecoats and Redcoats, turning friend against friend, brother against sister, child against parent, husband against wife. Buck up we must, or at least try. However, even with light at the end of a very long and very dark tunnel in America, that flicker is merely a sliver of the light needed to repair damage that will take a generation or more to repair. 

There will be no repairing the hole in the heart of so many who gather either in-person or virtually this Thanksgiving with one, two, perhaps more empty chairs where once there were people we cherished. What Mother Nature wrought and man, as is his want in so many similar cases, refused to take seriously in one of the more deadly shows of ignorance and arrogance this civilization has ever known. Were it a physical enemy, perhaps we would stand and truly defend every individual. Perhaps those in positions of power and authority would have taken every possible step to ensure every person would be protected, or at the very least they would try. Instead, more arrogance and ignorance. More verbal brickbats crashing through the fragile windows of our existence. 

Many of us face this Thanksgiving fried to an emotional crisp, especially those involved in the care of those too sick to muster much in the way of thanks. Elderly parents, some incapable of even understanding the simple things in everyday life because of medical conditions for which there is no real warning and certainly no cure, are left in shadowy worlds of their own, and all we can do is be there for a momentary holding of their hands and that hope for a glimmer of recognition in their eye. If, indeed, that type of physical contact is even allowed here in the “new world”. Those we love, trapped in homes and facilities as a deadly virus rages just beyond their walls. Raging, for the most part, because of those who see the temporary wearing of a mask as some type of “Constitutional infringement”, and maintain their macabre glibness toward doing what is right for everyone and laughing in the face of more than a quarter of a million deaths. 

In a scene from the motion picture “The Dark Knight Returns”, Michael Caine, playing the role of Alfred Pennyworth, butler and mentor to Bruce Wayne, spoke what could be the textual mantra for 2020.

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn”.

The world has, indeed, been in a full burn for most of 2020. Instead of forming a national bucket brigade to fight the blaze, we watched as almost half of America instead reached for verbal and pictorial gas cans, filled them to the brim with the most volatile vitriol on the market, and gleefully tossed them into the inferno. Not a corner of America was able to avoid the conflagration, one that has seared into our souls, leaving scars the likes of which we can’t even begin to understand the repairs it will take to heal.

How does one be thankful in such a maelstrom?

We need to catch our collective breath, but even that has become a near impossibility. Every day there comes a new discourse. People who care about each other participating in verbal snap fights instead of conversation. Businesses looking past supremely qualified workers for the scant jobs that are available, because a person is too old, the wrong skin color, the non-PC gender, or just because they might cost more than pittance wages. Those who desperately seek to be part of a thriving community, turned aside because they don’t fit someone’s mold of acceptability. New definitions of words such as “arrogance”, “ignorance”, “greed”, “lies”, and “hate”. The ease with which a society can be so unthinking and uncaring in simple matters such as returning a phone call, or an email, or a text, or just reaching out to have human contact and maybe, just maybe, save one life from going under for the final time. 

Honestly, I am just as depressed and frustrated with it all as most of you are. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2020, I found myself wrestling with that word. 

“How”.

Frankly, it just doesn’t seem possible.

We then have to seek out those tiny slivers of light. Those microscopically small pieces of color that, if we can put them together in enough quantity, could at the very least give us a measure of hope. 

The smile from one I love. The touch of my Mother’s hand. The way Magnus buries his head in my armpit as I wake. The baying of Bailey when we come into the house. The inspirational talk I was allowed to deliver to a group of people seeking something to escape the pounding of 2020 and COVID-19. Watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”. Immersing myself in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, trying hard not to notice the lack of spectators, and being unable to breathe in, even from across the satellite lines, the smells of my birthplace. Turning the clock back and becoming again that 6 year old kid who could not wait for Santa Claus and his reindeer to come galloping down the street. 

The hope that when I wake the morning after, I will be able to do so without becoming emotional again over those I have lost, and those I know will be gone in short order. 

I have come to realize that being thankful is often easy. How I get there is the difficult part. 

My sense is, I am not alone. 

May we all figuratively join hands, and discover together how we can be thankful at this Thanksgiving, for the remainder of the year we cannot wait to forget, and into what is now truly an uncharted world.

A world that needs more than a little inspiration, and more than a little caring for those who inhabit it. 

It is, without question, “how” we need to move forward.