Ed Vasicek

For most, 2020 has been a tough year. The coronavirus may have taken a loved one. Some readers are now unemployed because of the lock down. Others could not celebrate their graduations; wedding celebrations were down to a handful of close family; others could not comfort their family members during a surgery or visit grievers during a funeral service.

While some are celebrating Joe Biden’s election, just about as many are devastated and fearful for our nation’s future. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be kicking into high gear, and we enter the coming weeks with uncertainty. Will we have another shutdown? If so, will those on the edge of financial ruin fall off the precipice? Will our hospitals overflow with patients and burn out our medical personnel? When will the vaccine finally become available?

Will our nation’s unrest continue as protests degrade into riots? What will be the result of America’s entrenched political polarization?

At our church’s New Year’s party, we innocently welcomed 2020; we embraced our theme, “20-20 Vision.” But rather than seeing what the year would hold, we were blindsided like everyone else. Who could have predicted this crazy pandemic and escalating societal challenges?

Now we Hoosiers are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. Most of us will hopefully enjoy a celebration with our families, although perhaps a smaller group than usual. My hope is that we also take pains to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness.

Despite the hardships we may have faced, there is no shortage of things for which we could and should be thankful.

The story of the first Thanksgiving is enlightening. Before the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving, they had suffered horribly. The Mayflower arrived in the New World too late for the settlers to plant crops; getting through the first winter was grueling.

According to ushistory.org, “Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter. Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived … By autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims had much for which to be thankful. After the harvest ... about ninety ... Indians joined the Pilgrims for the great English tradition of Harvest Festival. The participants celebrated for several days, dining on venison, goose, duck, turkey, fish, and of course, cornbread, the result of a bountiful corn harvest. This tradition was repeated at harvest time in the following years.”

When we go through hardship and loss, it is natural to grieve and feel the weight of those hardships and losses. We all have our painful experiences, but certainly some more so than others. We don’t need to deny that or downplay our miseries. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing for which we are thankful. As a matter of fact, some people who have the most difficulties in life can be among the most thankful, while others who have it easy may be thankless.

This Thanksgiving, direct your thanks to God. Thank him for the people who make your life rich, the health you do have, and the food on your table. Be grateful that you live in a free country, for the beauty of art, the pleasure of music, and the ability to ponder the deeper things of life. Thank him for turkey at 33 cents a pound! Thank him for our community, our doctors and nurses and firefighters and police officers, our churches and counselors, our parks and our hobbies. Thank him for our senses and the encouraging words we hear from others. Be thankful for the rain and sunshine, the warmth in our homes during winter’s chilly blasts, the smell of hot steaming soup when the weather outside is 10-below zero.

With the pandemic gaining strength, this will be an unusual Thanksgiving for us. But the very process of enumerating our blessings and thanking God for them could pay dividends in our mood and disposition. Thankful people have more joy in life; thankless people less. We were created to be thankful and appreciative. It is also in our best interest. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Kokomo’s Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com

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