“Come, ye thankful people, come”

In another week we hope to be in our daughter’s kitchen helping with preparations for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, though we have qualms about being together despite being a small nuclear “bubble,” grandsons, grandparents, and daughter. We will all have tested beforehand, and perhaps we will enjoy our repast outdoors if the weather warms between now and then.

Anticipation of this family gathering naturally spurs thoughts of all that I am thankful for and some annoyances I can do without — scam calls about interest rates on credit cards or about Social Security violations or threats from the IRS or charges to Amazon I haven’t made or about my expired auto warranty, for example.

These small irritations pale beside thoughts of friends in hospitals with health issues, Covid-19 among them; of soldiers facing dangers daily, of people in physical or emotional pain; of those in poverty or danger; of those discriminated against because of fear and ignorance from others; of political factions that threaten the well-being of our nation — the list is too long.

To offset the negatives, I propose we list instead all we have to be thankful for even as we spend the most unusual, somewhat restricted Thanksgiving ever. I am thankful for the following, in no order:

• The history of our country that gives us a holiday like Thanksgiving to make us aware that not every country has the same celebration of harvest, sharing, reconciliation, and gratitude

• The ability to practice the religious faith of our choice, a freedom we never take for granted, and for those buildings and online structures that allow us to express our faith through word and song

• Family and friends that sustain us as we celebrate and as we mourn

• Old friends — those with whom we share history and milestones like high school and college graduation, military service, careers

• A life companion that we can depend on, share with, love with, and just be with

• Nature — in all its power, quiet, tumult, and challenge — and all that lives in the natural world, birds, animals, trees, livestock that feeds us, grains, etc.

• Music in all its varieties and musicians who use their talents to create the notes and words that excite, soothe, provoke, and soften the hard edges of our days and nights

• Books that take us into other worlds, sometimes better places than we will ever know, that spur our thoughts to new perspectives and broaden boundaries we or others have set

• Art that allows us to see as the artist has seen and known his or her experience and transmuted it via sculpture, oil, acrylic, watercolors, crayons, pencil, ink, paper, fabric, metal, clay, photography, and other means

• Education and educators — the greatest gift for all of us that moves us from ignorance and prejudice to knowledge and compassion, if we allow it

• Farmers and farmworkers for their work to provide the sustenance our bodies require to function effectively

• Health care workers, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and others in the helping services

• Postal workers that assure mail delivery despite disease or weather

• Government and the documents that guide it — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights — so that we may be assured of civic stability and perpetuity

• Leaders of government for their wisdom, vision, and courage

• Medical research and researchers who thankfully have worked to discover vaccines that protect and improve our lives

• Work — that teaches, that provides, that challenges, that gives us identity and meaning as we learn the value of teamwork

• Agencies for good — soup kitchens, United Ways, Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and all the special interest groups

• Dance in all its forms that tells stories, displays athletic prowess, and reveals the body’s ways to communicate all emotions

• Mechanics that can repair and renovate the systems that keep us cool or warm

• Cars — that grant us freedom and responsibility to operate them effectively and maintain them

• Air and rail travel that take some of us to places and people we love and miss

• Seasons that punctuate the year and landscape, changing it with color and air

• The freedom to write and speak our thoughts and to see them published

• Newspapers, like this one, the guardians of truth when they are at their best

• Invention that improves our lives, elongating them in quality and quantity

• Entertainment and entertainers — films and programs, comedians and others who distract from worry and fear through laughter and thoughtfulness

• Pets — dogs, cats, hamsters — who become our companions, offering solace and comfort and fun

• Children, whose pure innocence and beauty remind us of possibility

• Old houses and their artifacts that tell stories of other lives and times

• Museums that educate, celebrate, and store artifacts

of civilizations past and

present

• Soldiers whose work at home and abroad guarantees our safety and stability

• Electricity, the lights that take us out of darkness and chaos

• Good health when so

many have afflictions of body and mind that make life difficult

• Money, enough to live on without constant worry and with excess to donate to others in need

• A home, the sanctuary we create where we sleep and eat, mindful that “home” for so many may be a street grate, a park bench, a ditch

• Skills, our own and others’

• Ancestors who settled here to make a better place for those who came after them

• Parents who guide and teach and love

• Ministers, priest, rabbis, preachers who set the example of goodness, prayer, and worship

• Water — the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, ponds — where we can witness power and peace

• Parks where we can enjoy play and fun

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving in whatever way you can celebrate it and hope you make your own list of what you are grateful for in these hard times of rising Covid numbers, increased isolation, and waning patience.

Liz Meador is a retired English instructor from Wayne Community College and an adjunct at North Carolina Wesleyan College.