On Giving Thanks

There is no question that 2020 is the absolute definition of a difficult, strange, stressful year.  Pick any adjective you like, this is a year unlike any we have ever known, a year that we will never forget, a year that we can’t wait to conclude. And here we are, heading into Thanksgiving with all of us feeling the “2020 effect” even more intensely.

For many of us, myself included, Thanksgiving is a holiday for family to come together.  I always call it “my holiday” because it’s the time I can gather our kids and their families together, sometimes on Thanksgiving Day and sometimes over the days that follow.  While I have sometimes been exhausted from the two or three family meals that take place, I always cherish the time together.

But this year that can’t happen and, as we know, it shouldn’t happen.  We need to “stay in our bubble” as much as we can and keeping gatherings limited. The more people we have, the more likely that COVID-19 is an uninvited (and unwelcome) guest and those of us who work in long term care have learned, through painful experience, just how quickly and insidiously this virus can spread.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little let down by the holiday this year.  We won’t have the faces around the table that we are accustomed to having, we won’t have the noisy holiday meal filled with laughter and lively conversation.  We’ll come together via Zoom at some point during the day and be thrilled to do that but it’s not the same and can’t be the same.

Still and all, I think that what we must do is focus on the meaning of the holiday, focus on gratitude and on giving thanks.  Some years I go around the table and ask each person what they are grateful for and, while that causes my children to groan a bit, I think it is even more important this year.  In my work with elders, I have seen so many people become ill this year and I am grateful for those who have recovered and healed.  I am grateful for the caregivers who have helped to make that healing a reality, who were willing to put their own health at risk for the wellbeing of others.  I’m grateful for the love of family and friends, for the moments of joy, support and commitment.  I’m grateful for work that has meaning and value, enriching the lives of older adults and seeing the impact of our efforts every day. I’m grateful for colleagues who have been there to help whenever a need arose. I’m grateful for our elders, who have lifted our spirits during these difficult times and for their families and our community who express their appreciation frequently. And I’m immensely grateful for the team with whom I am privileged to work, whose creativity, compassion and courage know no bounds.

It is easy to get caught up in the longing for life as we knew it.  It is easy to let the reality of 2020 push us to feelings of disappointment and let down.  I suggest that you take a few minutes and really think about, even write down, that for which you are grateful and, if the mood strikes you, tell the people who are on your gratitude list how you feel about them and what they mean to you.  Making Thanksgiving this year about giving thanks may be far better than that slice of turkey or piece of pumpkin pie.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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