Is ‘Thanksgiving 2020’ an Oxymoron?

The more thankful we are, the happier we are. It’s a fact. However, as Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are struggling with the concept. It’s easy to forget how much we are blessed, especially during this ridiculously difficult time, when it feels as if the universe has a somewhat sick sense of humor. 

Like so many other holidays throughout 2020, Thanksgiving will be celebrated pandemic-style. This year has brought about so much sudden change, canceled plans, and hard losses. Normally we would be looking forward to celebrating with large groups of friends and family all coming together. But limited to small gatherings, this normally outsized holiday will feel oddly low-key.

We feel troubled and out-of-sorts inside our socially-distanced bubbles. The world, frankly, is weird right now. But despite everything, we still have so much for which to be thankful. If you’re a rebel at heart, perhaps think of thankfulness as a radical act during this strange time! [Let me know if that helps. :-)]

It’s so easy to focus inward on ourselves right now. Isolation will do that. But during times of high anxiety or fear, when we’re feeling helpless, it’s even more important to focus outward. Have you told someone lately what they mean to you and why? Now would be a great time.

“During a difficult time, gratitude is more important than ever,” says Ryan Fehr, a world-renowned gratitude expert. “Research shows that gratitude can help us cope with traumatic events, regulate our negative emotions, and improve our well-being. More importantly, gratitude can have a positive effect on our friends and family, too. It’s a small way to have a meaningful impact.”

You know the expression: ‘It’s the little things’? In a similar vein, I like to say: ‘The little things aren’t’. [Aren’t little, that is.] Be ever thankful for the normal things in life. The everyday. The mundane. Take nothing for granted. Say thank you to everyone and everything. Live your life as if everything is a miracle. (You won’t be too far off.) 

Constantly reflecting on what you’re grateful for at each moment can change your life. If you’re always grateful for the little things, it’s hard to NOT feel good. Or at least, better. It’s easy to say; less easy to do. But like meditation, just keep bringing yourself back to it when your mind wanders. 

In addition to appreciating that ‘the little things aren’t’, I am trying to be actively grateful for the blessings that have come to me or to my attention BECAUSE of 2020. I am especially grateful for doctors and nurses and all healthcare staff, for grocery and pharmacy workers, for Zoom, for library ebooks, for smart people who develop vaccines, for the postal service and all who deliver packages, for those who publicly protest against injustice, for those who dance in the streets, and for my sons who make me laugh every day as we enjoy this bonus time together.

And there are blessings I’ve long appreciated, but for which I will be even more grateful going forward. Visiting family. Remember visiting family? Hugs. Remember hugs? If you’re not a hugger, you’ll want to avoid coming near me when hugging is back in vogue. 
It won’t always be this hard. Gam zeh ya’avor – this too shall pass. And what endures after this will be an even greater perception of our blessings, to enjoy each day of the remainder of our lives.

The verdict? “Thanksgiving 2020” is NOT an oxymoron.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.…, to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” [Abraham Joshua Heschel] 

Be ever aware of your blessings. Constantly remind yourself to be grateful, and allow that gratitude to inspire you to acts of kindness. Remember that the most important purpose of Judaism or any religion is to remind us to be good to one another.

Wishing you all a meaningful and delicious Thanksgiving.
Ahava is grateful for each and every one of you.

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