To say that 2020 has been a challenging year is the mother of all understatements, but it is nearing a close. For some, it may feel like a tough time to give thanks, but now more than ever, giving thanks is probably just what we need.
The year 2020 is almost in the rearview mirror, and for most of us in the United States and around the world, it cannot get there fast enough. Every day and every year brings different challenges to each of us, but this year does seem to be striving for an award in infamy. What a great time to stop and give thanks.
Let’s just stop and think for a minute. Yes, there have been countless memes about the dumpster fire that is 2020. The pandemic and subsequent business shutdowns and widespread unemployment. Civil unrest. Wildfires. So many hurricanes we started using Greek names for only the second time since the mid-1900s. Murder hornets, for Pete’s sake.
But regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have been a year when some of us would have been grieving over the loss of a parent or sibling or child. It would have been a year when some of us would have faced unemployment or divorce. Many of us struggle through these stressful and challenging situations now. And, right this minute, perhaps the focus on adversity this year in particular can serve to heighten our gratitude. In fact, let’s be thankful for the adversity.
Thanks for the challenge
We are almost to a new year, but the next year will still be a time when loved ones die and jobs are lost and marriages fail. Trials and tribulations are a part of life. With any luck, 2020 has given us greater empathy for our fellow humans who hit a rough patch, no matter when it is.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Sure, the quote comes from the fictional Professor Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but the sentiment isn’t fiction. We need to find the light switch, for our sake and for the sake of everyone we come in contact with.
Someone you know is struggling. Maybe they are depressed because of a job loss. Because of the challenges we have all faced this year, maybe we can all do a better job of offering a sympathetic ear. Let’s listen to each other’s struggles. And then send a bag of groceries or a gift card over to the neighbor we know is facing a hard time financially or emotionally. If you have the ability to pay it forward in such a way, give thanks that you do.
It’s the little things
If 2020 has dumped a big load of hard times on you, try to find a small thing to be thankful for. Nothing is too small when it comes to giving thanks. Do you have a special coffee cup? Be thankful for the person who gave it to you and for the coffee you get to drink each morning. Make yourself a cup of coffee—black or Irish, whatever floats your boat—and relish the moment.
Do you have a phone? Be thankful that you have a lifeline to the rest of the world, and go give someone a call. Text your kid and tell them you are thinking about them. Be thankful for the kid. Is there a bird flying outside your window? Take a moment and just enjoy its movements. Be thankful for the little gifts in nature. Have you had a crappy day up until now? Find some music that will make your heart sing, whether it’s Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” or The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” Go find your light. And be thankful for Grieg and the Stones.
If we practice looking for the joy in the little things, like the return of toilet paper to the grocery shelves, we can all get to the end of 2020 in better spirits. Check in on friends, family, and neighbors and share a little of that joy and thankfulness. Let your eyes smile over the top of your face mask at the tired grocery store worker or the stressed teacher. Give thanks for the groceries and even the Zoom classes. Although, in all seriousness, I’ll be ready to give thanks for a decline in Zoom meetings and classes.
And 2021 is a new year. Who is up for a joint resolution to give thanks for the little things all through the year? For now, I will find my light and share the joy I find. And I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2021, come what may.