When the Apostle Paul said, “praise the Lord in all circumstances,” I think he had the year 2020 in mind.
As this annual tradition of gratitude comes around, uppermost in our minds are certainly not things we’re grateful for: a surge of coronavirus cases, a president for the next four years still not quite confirmed, an economy poised to take another wild turn. A natural response to current events in this country would be: “thanksgiving? Uh, can I get back to you on that? Call me in January!”
Or is now precisely when we need to be giving thanks? Isn’t gratitude a choice not a circumstance? While events can certainly lead us to giving thanks, can’t giving thanks lead us to better actions? Can’t this humble disposition call forth in us a greater strength and a deeper resolve to face whatever challenges lie ahead?
True or not, I’m going to go with it. Here’s my gratitude list for 2020 (I’m not including medical workers, teachers, and grocery workers not because they don’t deserve it but because they’ve already gotten lots of thanks):
1. Zoom – By April of this year, virtually every face-to-face meeting had been transferred to some online platform. The bulk of them were on Zoom. Compared to 10 million zoom calls in December 2019, there were 200 million in March and 300 million in April. And Zoom . . . delivered. Oh, there were issues: security lapses, questionable design choices, encryption promises that were dubious. But for any online software to almost instantaneously jump to twenty times their average usage and not crash, blackout, or have serious technical glitches for thousands of users was nothing short of a miracle. Face it: they carried us through the Spring. And continue to host the bulk of engagement in our still largely virtual world. Hats off to Eric Yuan and team. Thank you for being at the right place at the right time with a pretty darn good product.
2. Masks – who would guess that the universal layman’s solution – for now – to this pandemic was not a multi-million-dollar drug (that’s coming) or a fantastically mobilized government health response (disjointed at best) or even outstanding medical attention (heroic, but didn’t turn the tide) but rather a homemade piece of cloth with a couple of rubber bands?? Cheap, effective, mass-producible, and even personalizable to boot! I shop. I get gas. I get my coffee. And I feel relatively safe. Thanks to a mask.
3. Elected Officials – bear with me: I know your adrenalin is already rising as you think of all the missteps, all the misguided directives, all the politics that frustrated, befuddled, and disillusioned you these last nine months. But hey, someone had to lead. While you were focused on keeping one job and putting food on one table, county, state, and federal officials were staying up at night trying to figure out how to make sure this happened for hundreds, thousands, millions. They worked, they sweated, they made mistakes. But they showed up. They kept us moving forward. And most did the very best they knew how. Thank God.
4. Outdoors – not eating out, not frequenting bars & coffeehouses, not going to the office, not going to meetings – alas – didn’t mean not going out! Biking, hiking, boating, fishing, camping and the like weren’t just tolerated – they were actually encouraged. And boy did we need to get out! I will be forever grateful that COVID did not mean staying indoors for months on end. Now that would have been a nightmare.
5. Family – when isolation was the name of the game in the heat of this pandemic, we formed our ‘pods.’ If we had families, they became our pods. If we didn’t, we found them: those few individuals living in close proximity with whom we had a mutual trust of non-exposure. Whatever we called them, they were family and they were the last line of defense against the dark void called loneliness. We may not have had the perfect family but because of family, we survived.
May the thanks we offer up this year be in its own class. If you want to prove to a spouse, to a Higher Power, or to yourself that you can be grateful in all circumstances, now’s your big chance!