To be honest a holiday dedicated to giving thanks seems mistimed this year, which has often been described as a dumpster fire. I would liken 2020 more to a global pile of burning tires that flames and stews and stinks and refuses to burn out or to be extinguished. Some days gratitude is hard to come by, and Thanksgiving seems like an anachronism better suited to years without such extreme challenges.

Then I remember that the early settlers in our country probably didn’t feel like they had a lot to be thankful for, either. I suspect their indigenous friends similarly weren’t particularly grateful, especially had they foreseen what would unfold at the hands of the people they were befriending.

The challenges of 2020 are overwhelming, too enormous for all but the willfully ignorant to ignore: a still-exploding global pandemic; systemic racism and the unrest it prompts; disintegration of decency and honesty; financial uncertainty, even ruin; environmental disasters; deep division in politics, religion, communities, and families; and on and on. The bleak picture and ensuing stress expose the worst in people.

And yet, in the middle of all the devastation, disease, and even death, the best of humanity and human experience is also evident. Many others have shared a similar perspective about the things that remain during this unimaginable awfulness. Here is a partial list of some that stand out for me – simple, persistent imperishables that prompt gratitude:

  • Heroism, dedication, and sacrifice of healthcare workers
  • Thoughtfulness of neighbors, friends, and strangers who shop for and check on others
  • Dedication of teachers who extend themselves even more than usual to instruct online
  • Patience of parents who “homeschool” when that was never their intention
  • A waxing moon that predictably fills in to become a heart-stopping full orb of beauty
  • Laughter and camaraderie
  • Mountains that stand strong above the fray and the daring of those who climb them
  • Creativity and innovation that accommodates to this new normal
  • Children’s innocence and curiosity
  • Simple solutions like face masks, hand washing, and physical distancing
  • Self-awareness and growth
  • Music and the limitless options on Spotify
  • The garden at Bethesda Workshops
  • Hiking and the beauty and crunch of fall leaves, the sight of deer, the Heart Tree, and my bench #39 at Radnor Lake
  • Courage in the face of fear and exhaustion
  • Zoom and other technologies that tie and bind us together
  • My constant canine companion and his big eyes and cool, wet nose in my palm
  • Rainbows and sunsets and brilliant stars
  • My hawks that consistently appear on the steeple and in the sky
  • Great reading material, both inspirational and entertaining
  • Unwavering support of dear ones who love me without condition or judgment
  • Silence and solitude
  • Generosity of Bethesda Workshops’ supporters
  • Encouraging emails and texts that lighten and brighten my day
  • Angels, healing, and hope
  • God’s faithful, palpable presence

It’s such extravagance when I think about it! I am grateful for these things and grateful for you who read these musings.

Perhaps this list will prompt your own inventory of positives that endure. I’m sure there is someone who would be encouraged to hear about them.

Marnie C. Ferree