“There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.”-O. Henry
Thanksgiving 2020 is bittersweet. We are isolating. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many may be spending the day alone because of the pandemic. Many Americans are out of work or have lost family businesses because of COVID shutdowns. Many families are struggling to put food on their tables. We are an intensely divided nation struggling to reconcile and to survive. We may not see what we have to be grateful for.
Be sad. Be melancholy. There is nothing that says Thanksgiving has to be jovial. It’s okay.
This Thanksgiving should, perhaps, be a day of mourning. We have much to grieve: loved ones, livelihoods, “normalcy,” civility, respect for differences, etc. And we should grieve it. Together.
We should acknowledge the common pain and struggle we have encountered over the past four years and that we have today. Although the causes of our suffering may differ, the fact that we are hurting, and hurting deeply, is, for now, a universal American feeling.
One way to explore suffering, and to open ourselves to healing, is to share our stories. We cannot compare stories, judging one person’s suffering as worse or more deserving of sympathy. Grief is not a competition.
Sharing stories enables us to begin to see the Other as Human. We need to remember our common humanity. We need to remember that life isn’t easy for anyone, we all have struggles that manifest in a myriad of ways. We need to remember that we judge each other according to baseless stereotypes and learn nothing of one another in the process. We need to remember that casting aspersions onto others does not enhance our moral character, it diminishes it. Most of all we need to remember that we are in the same ship, and when that ship sinks, it takes all of us down with it.
Take this Thanksgiving as a day of mourning for our country and honor those we have lost to COVID, to racism, to poverty, to disease, to accident, to addiction, to suicide, to assault, to fear, etc. Be thankful, even if it is bittersweet, that we get the chance to fix the mess we are in. We get the chance to rebalance life in this grief-ridden country. We get the chance to reframe our priorities and care for those who are neglected and those who are suffering.
Take this Thanksgiving to figure out how you will do right by others, especially those who you will never meet and with whom you probably disagree.
Reflect on how we can work together to slowly rebuild our trust in one another.
Consider how you can contribute to the restoration of compassion at a time when our country desperately needs it.