It is the season of thanks, a time when we stop and reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives. It is normally a time to gather with family and friends and let them know how much we appreciate them. Only this year, it is different. On the surface, it may seem difficult to find reasons to be thankful amidst the COVID pandemic. It has been a year of isolation and a year of loss. We are a world in mourning as we have been deeply wounded, losing so many. Even the most optimistic among us may find it challenging to find reasons to be thankful this year. However, I truly believe that there is always something to be thankful for.
Years ago, when my son was a toddler, I started a Thanksgiving tradition in our family by creating a thankful jar. The jar is ceremoniously placed on a table each November with slips of paper and a pen. Throughout the month, we write whatever we are thankful for down on a piece of paper and place it in the jar. It can be as simple as an appreciation for basic needs being met, such as a roof over our heads and food on our table, or it can be more personal. On Thanksgiving Day, we read the gratitude slips aloud before our meal. It is also amusing trying to guess who put which slips in the jar. When my son was younger, he never failed to write “vegan mac n cheese” on one of his gratitude slips. It was his favorite food for many years, and it wasn’t difficult to guess who had placed it in the jar! It warmed my heart to see how grateful he was for the little things in life.
My personal gratitude slips over the years have given thanks for things such as time with family, animal companions, seeds and my garden, favorite recipes, good books, animal sanctuaries and rescue groups, freedoms, and hobbies, to name a few. Each year I try to find joy and gratitude in the simplest of things: a walk on the beach, a cup of tea while snuggled under a blanket, or a good movie on a Friday night with a heaping bowl of popcorn.
I have saved all of the gratitude slips over the years, and at times have chastised myself for not being able to let them go. However, as the pile of slips grows, they become reminders of how much we have to be grateful for. I have found slips written by family members that are no longer with us, and I hold them close to my heart; they are remembrances of how thankful I am to have had these people in my life. Looking back at the slips that my son has written over the years has also brought me joy. I can see how much he has matured and what a thoughtful young man he has become, yet one more reason to be grateful.
I have tried to dig deep to reflect on what I am thankful for in 2020, and honestly, it seems that I am more thankful than ever. Of course, I am ever grateful for a safe place to call home, food on our table, and family and friends. But, I am also grateful for so much more. This year, my gratitude slips will be filled with thanks for my family’s health, for those essential workers that remain working tirelessly, and for all the people out there who have donated financially or by volunteering their time to help others in need. I will write slips of thanks for healthcare workers who work endless hours and hold the hands of the sick when their family can’t. Slips will be written in thanks for acts of kindness, laughter, love, hope, and so much more. Yes, my thankful jar will be overflowing this Thanksgiving.
With all that we’ve been through in 2020, I have been made acutely aware of how many simple things I took for granted in the past. Going to a show, walking with a friend, attending school events, going to a sporting event, visiting with family, eating in a restaurant, all simple parts of my daily life before the pandemic that, when taken away, seem monumental. I am sure that when those parts of my life return, rather than take them for granted, I will be more grateful than ever.
Poet Maya Angelou once wisely wrote, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” These enlightening words are ones that I hope to live by because now, more than ever, I find that they ring true. I wish everyone many gratitude slips in your thankful jars this Thanksgiving and for years to come.