This Year, Thankful for a Chair and a Table
JNS.org – The COVID-19 virus that has hijacked humanity in 2020 is 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. It’s not even a living organism, like bacteria. It’s an inanimate object, more like a microscopic gun that just keeps shooting and shooting.
To see how it wreaks havoc, scientists fighting the virus have had to go down to its molecular level, cutting through a thicket of cellular distractions to isolate the reckless virus and figure out how to deal with it.
Whether we realize it or not, we’ve done something similar. An invisible, lethal, and contagious disease that can kill us any time we encounter other people has forced us to cut through a thicket of distractions to isolate the things we value most.
The first thing we value most is, clearly, our life. We may crave doing all the things we normally do, but not if it will endanger our lives. That’s why we’ve upended our routines and tolerated prolonged isolation — because staying alive is worth it.
The second thing we value most is our relationships. If we can’t hang out with the people we usually do, we must prioritize. Who’s on our must-see list? Who are we closest to? Who nourishes us the most, and who must we nourish?
The third thing is our time. If we have to cut out so many of our normal activities, how do we use this most precious of commodities? How do we balance our time caring for ourselves with caring for others?
Which brings me to the holiday of Thanksgiving, a singular American tradition that connects the three things we value most — our lives, our relationships, and our time.
I remember being introduced to Thanksgiving after moving to the United States in the early 1980s. It took me a while to fully grasp the power and mass attraction of the holiday, which brought all Americans together and reminded us of life’s blessings. It floored me that just about everyone, regardless of religion or ethnicity, made plans to gather with their families and enjoy the same festive meal. The whole country, it seemed, looked forward to it.
In this year of the pandemic, needless to say, even rock-solid Thanksgiving has been hijacked and turned upside down.
It’s sadly ironic that COVID-19 is disrupting this most cherished American ritual in a year when we need its warmth and comfort more than ever. Alas, this cold and lifeless virus doesn’t take time-outs for holidays. It continues its rampage whether we’re in a bar, a synagogue or at a boisterous family gathering.
In fact, it is precisely what makes Thanksgiving so special — close physical proximity with other people — that makes it especially dangerous. As much as we may value this holiday above all others, most of us will conclude that it’s not worth the risk. I’m sure many people will adjust and have much smaller gatherings, while others will just not have any guests.
Regardless of how we adjust, there is always Plan B: If we can’t celebrate the holiday the way we’re used to, we can double down on celebrating its message of gratitude. So, when I go around our table this year — just me and three of my kids — what will I be thankful for?
The list is surely endless, but in a year when so many have lost so much, if I had to choose one thing I’m most grateful for, if I had to cut through the thicket of distractions to isolate my gene of gratitude, I would say I’m most thankful that I’m simply able to sit in a chair and have a meal at a table, and look at people I love — and be alive to write about it.