Thanks Giving

 It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.
                Brother David Steindl-Rast  
Thanksgiving – the holiday – will be quite a bit different at our house this year.

Yours too, no doubt.
Thanks (or no thanks) to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises us to stay close to home, keep gatherings to a minimum, and do all within our power to minimize the risk of infection.
Sound advice, of course, even if it’s tough to hear.
So, there’ll be no traveling to visit children and grandchildren for us.  Just another quiet day, unencumbered (hopefully) by a schedule or some unforeseen occurrence. No pre-dawn wake-up call to get ready for school, which will be nice. A long walk. Some reading. Some writing. Some television-watching, but not the news, at least for one day. Mainly time to enjoy the moment, uncertain as the moment is.
A non-traditional Thanksgiving, though, doesn’t mean no thanks-giving.
Even in the most challenging of times, there’s much for which to be grateful.
In fact, if you choose negativity rather than celebrate blessings, if you focus on what you can’t do rather than what you can, if your mindset is it’s-so-unfair rather than we’ll-get-through-this-eventually-and-be-better-for-the-experience, then you’re allowing COVID to beat you.
Listen carefully, my friends: Don’t – I repeat, Don’t – let COVID beat you.
That said, maintaining a natural high is a tall order these days but hardly impossible, so let’s talk gratitude.
First, for me, there’s family: Emily, who’s put up with me for 34-plus years, our four children (one in each time zone), two daughters-in-law, a significant other, and five grandchildren ranging in age from almost 2 to 17.
There’re colleagues who teach and coach and hold forth in a variety of other roles and of whom I’ve never felt prouder in my many years at Collegiate. During the past nine months, they’ve conveyed positivity, found creativity they might never have known they had, and done right by the children whose families entrust them to our care. Their hours have been longer and more intense than usual, their stresses greater, and their risks higher. They’ve run on fumes most days, but they’ve never flinched and won’t, and they’ve provided uncommon strength and courage as we’ve persevered as a community through unprecedented times.
There’re colleagues on the physical plant staff, many of whom have adjusted to changes in schedule and responsibilities. They’ve kept the grounds aesthetically pleasing, the buildings comfortable and clean, and, most important, the premises sanitized to ensure safety for all. They do their jobs to the best of their ability, step back, and let their actions rather than words speak for their excellence.
There’re the kids, our students, who have bought into the requirements of this new reality and managed the serial disruptions in their lives with beyond-their-years maturity.
As the events of the world swirl at mind-numbing speed, I’m grateful for much, much more.
For those who follow the rules, wear the mask, and show concern for the welfare of others.
For those who truly listen without gazing at devices and take time to share earnest and attentive conversations.
For those who are nonjudgmental, tolerant, and respectful, who travel the high road when others may not, who play to the strengths of others rather than criticize and exploit their weaknesses, and for whom kindness and civil discourse are the norm.
I’m grateful for moments of levity and inspiration which make daunting situations so much more manageable.
For relaxed, in-person time with friends – six feet apart, of course – and for the electronic platforms which allow us to function professionally and stay connected to those who aren’t nearby.
For good health, the ability to exercise, and time, though sometimes fleeting, to think, reflect, and attempt to make sense of this crazy, crazy world.
For the serenity of the Robins Campus, especially the trails, the sunset, and the occasional deer bounding across the verdant fields.
I’m grateful for those who believe in unity and brotherhood rather than divisiveness.
For those who stand up for the downtrodden, underserved, and vulnerable rather than sit idly on the sideline, do nothing, or actively condone injustice.
For those who display sportsmanship, humility in victory, and grace in defeat.
For those who command respect rather than demand it.
Yes, even in these troubling times, there’s much for which to be grateful.
Let us remain ever optimistic and above the fray, never lose ourselves in the abyss, and, each day, harken to the better angels of our nature.