I doubt that anyone would say that 2020 has not been a most challenging year. The pandemic itself would place this particular year at the bottom of almost everyone’s list. Add in a record number of hurricanes in the south, a historic fire season in the west, a divisive election of epic proportions, and an economic shock that has resulted in millions of people losing their jobs, it is easy to see why most people will be glad to say good riddance to 2020.
My own prayers have changed during this year. My blessings at mealtime now ask for God to continue to keep my family safe during the COVID-19 Crisis. I have known far too many people who have died for me not to take the Coronavirus seriously.
At the top of the world’s list of things to be thankful for would have to be the good news in the past few days about the vaccines that are being tested with great results. Nothing causes despair like no hope, and for most of this year we have not seen a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic. Hope lifts our hearts in so many ways. I am thankful for the many people around the world who have worked so tirelessly to develop an effective vaccine against this virus that has killed over 250 thousand people in the United States alone.
I am thankful for Zoom and other platforms that have allowed me to remain in contact with family and friends. It is not a perfect substitute, but it enabled connections to remain unbroken when we miss them most.
I am thankful for those essential workers that have allowed life to go on for most of us. Grocery store and restaurant workers. Frontline people in the medical field. The workers at Huntcliff Summit and Extendicare that keep my 88-year-old mother and my 90-year-old father-in-law safe and engaged in the world. True heroes they all are.
I am thankful for the good meals that Mary Lou and I have learned to cook together at home. The daily times that we have carved out as part of our new normal. Limiting ourselves to one nightly news program. Rediscovering the game show Jeopardy and witnessing the brave way Alex Trebek fought his illness to the very end.
I am thankful for the several pairs of walking shoes I have worn out this year. I have walked further on the streets of Auburn and around Compass Lake this year than when I hiked on the Appalachian Trail. The audio books I discovered through the library system have kept my mind engaged while I walked myself back into the best shape I have been in decades.
I am thankful for every single note, email, text, and tweet I have received from friends and family this year. If this year of isolation does not illustrate our need for friends, our need to hug and touch and talk and hangout together, then nothing will.
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to write a column each week, and even more thankful for those who take the time to reach back out to me. Mostly complimentary, occasionally suggestive, but a few with a strong push back. I loved them all.
I am thankful for a wife to walk beside me during these times. We have not just had to learn how to deal with the pandemic and its effects on our daily lives, but also with being retired and living in a new community. Life is a journey, in good years and in bad.
These are indeed difficult times. We hope that better days are around the corner and that 2021 will bring some sense of normalcy back to us all. In the meantime, stop and think about your own situation. Despite some of the hard times of the past year, we always have much for which to be thankful.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org