Create an attitude of gratitude in spite of COVID-19
Happy Thanksgiving 2020. When I sat down to write this article, I found myself staring into the void of an empty computer screen, my fingers ready to type. What would interest readers? What exactly are we collectively thankful for this year?
Since we skidded into pandemic life in March, our stories have collided into a similar blur of Zoom calls, remote learning, social distance, quarantine, screen-time church, Facetime doctor visits, Facebook political venom, internet shopping, hand washing, mask wearing, no hugging, and high anxiety while keeping 6-feet apart.
“It’s the weirdest thing,” I lamented on the phone to my friend Nancy, who lives in Pennsylvania. “For days now, every time I start to write my article on gratitude for the newspaper, the phone rings or dings, and I am interrupted.”
Five days of various interruptions left me with a blank page, so I gave up. Being a woman of faith, I did what I always do: I prayed for an answer. It wasn’t a pretty prayer, either. Anxiety never is, but it was honest. Then I got quiet.
The lyrics of a 2010 Amy Grant song came to me: “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody, Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries, of breaking hearts, Are better than a Hallelujah.”
The honest cry of a broken heart is real this year. I have shed tears over the destruction and havoc caused by coronavirus. Sickness, death, loneliness, heartache, political divisions, ranting and riots. Separation of friends and family by distance or ideology. My heart hurts just thinking about it. What a mess.
Yet, as Amy Grant sings, “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody.”
The melody of a song carries the tune. Everything else is background. Or in other words, God knows when life is hard, and welcomes our prayers.
Prayer was part of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Giving thanks was part of daily life for the English settlers and Native Americans. They celebrated the harvest and survival. They were the lucky ones who made it through the harsh conditions, including epidemic diseases. Some 78% of the women who arrived on the Mayflower died during the first winter, a far higher percentage than men or children. The survivors were grateful.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday for the first time. It was part of his attempt to mend a deeply divided nation during the Civil War.
In the 2020 global pandemic, we too, can celebrate our survival by giving thanks for friends, family, food, health and the promise of a vaccine.
As for me, this week, I was grateful for the interruptions. Each ding or ring of my phone connected me with someone who added pleasant harmony to the melody of pandemic life.
Daughter-in-law Debbie, who lives in New York state, sent a picture of my 7-year-old grandson in his new hockey jersey, playing goalie for the first time. At 755 miles apart, every little thing that brings us closer is a blessing.
Another text invited my husband and me to join friends for lunch outside on a sunny day.
A neighbor, Dawn, texted me mid-week about water aerobics. Three mornings a week, a small group of us meet at a pool with our foam noodles and water weights. It is a lifeline of conversation and exercise. Committed to each other and to our health, we show up, work hard, stay positive, keep confidences, wear masks until we get into the pool and keep a safe distance in the water. We count on each other.
Laurel, who lives in Pittsburgh, called this week, and we commiserated over cancelled holiday plans. For almost 40 years, we have shared the ups and downs of life. I am grateful for old friendships that remain fresh.
On day five, my writing was interrupted again. My husband, Andy, asked me to help him finish hanging Christmas lights on two 16-foot trees in the front yard. Since a 12-foot ladder was involved, I couldn’t say no. Neighbors stopped by to admire his work, and soon a small group was talking, laughing and keeping their distance in the street for more than 45 minutes, until their feet got cold and their dogs too restless. I give thanks that during COVID-19, neighbors are now friends.
In the early morning hours of day six, it all made sense. The words flowed through my fingers with the simplicity of knowing that the interruptions this week were things for which I am grateful.
Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist, offers something for us to ponder over the Thanksgiving weekend: “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
Janice Krouskop is a member of the Morganton Writers Group.