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Do you have a tradition at Thanksgiving of sharing what you are thankful for? Is it easy for you to name the things you are thankful for this year? Or is it difficult to feel gratitude in a year of loss and pain?
We know that Thanksgiving will be different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues and cases increase across the country. Some families will not be able to gather in person, while others will be mourning the loss of loved ones.
Have these factors — and others — made you think differently about Thanksgiving in 2020? Have they changed what you are grateful for this year?
In “Being Thankful and Hopeful in This Weird and Terrible Year,” Dr. Perri Klass writes about how she is thinking about gratitude in 2020. She says that Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday because “what it celebrates is embedded in the day”:
[F]amily making the trip, crowding around the table, eating together, enacting silly rituals, and then (let’s admit it) going away again. It’s about traditions, but also innovations, about continuity, but also about marking change, as the people at the table grow up, and as we remember the ones who are gone.
But not this year. You know where I’m going with this. This year it’s all about keeping everyone healthy so we can do all that next year. This year we’re grateful to those who are not making the trip, crowding around the table, and all the rest. In my own family, an unbroken stretch of more than three and a half decades is about to be broken. But it’s not a year for mourning that we’re doing things differently.
What this is, is a weird and terrible year, a pandemic year, a year for getting ourselves and those we love through the winter as well as we can, for thinking hard about people who are bearing the greatest burdens and how to help them, and for waiting hopefully for better times.
Dr. Klass concludes the article by sharing some of the things that she is thankful for this year:
So in the interests of doing things differently this year, to mark a weird and terrible year, here are some things I’m grateful for. Some you know: dedicated frontline workers, steadfast parents everywhere getting their children through, smart epidemiology, vaccine research, the various kinds of privilege and protection which keep many people I love comparatively safe, the selflessness and mission that put many people I love at a certain amount of risk.
I’m grateful for deadlines, and pressures, which get me writing, since I didn’t turn out to be one of those people who just feels motivated by the at-home pandemic time to get really creative. Concomitantly, I’m grateful for guilt, especially the guilt that goes with overdue deadlines, because that really gets me out of bed in the morning, even when the news is bad.
I’m grateful for knitting, which has helped me with my Zoom fatigue, and for novels (especially to Anthony Trollope for writing so many of them and to Persephone books for republishing so many authors I hadn’t previously encountered), which take me into other worlds and other scenes more effectively than anything else (and then make me feel guilty for reading novels when I have deadlines overdue).
But most of all, I think, I am grateful for all those Thanksgivings past, and for the prospect of a better Thanksgiving in a better year — and I’m hopeful that will be 2021. I will not ask people to go around the table and announce what they’re grateful for, but honestly, there will be no need. If we get to that table, we will know.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
Dr. Klass describes this as a “weird and terrible year.” What three words would you use to describe 2020? Have these feelings made it easier or harder for you to feel gratitude? Why?
What are you thankful for this year? Who in your family or community are you grateful for? Can you think of other things — big or small — that have brought you comfort, security or joy?
In “What Are You Thankful for This Year?,” Melissa Kirsch writes: “Articulating what we’re thankful for is a radical act in the midst of a hard time. Turning our attention to the things we do have rather than what we don’t is a tough task, but a crucial one.” Do you agree with Ms. Kirsch’s statement? Do you think it is particularly important to express gratitude this year? Why or why not?
How often do you express your thanks? Only on Thanksgiving? Or all year long? How do you do you show gratitude in your daily life? Through words? Letters? Prayer? Meditation? Journaling? What does it feel like when you articulate the things you’re grateful for?
Many see Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful. But this year, some will be dealing with hardship because of the pandemic — loneliness, lost jobs, the death of loved ones. And in this moment of racial reckoning, others are wondering how to celebrate a holiday that has often ignored the nation’s violent treatment of Native Americans. Is it possible to acknowledge the pain that might come with this holiday while also feeling thankful and appreciative? How might you do that at your Thanksgiving table this year, if you’re celebrating?
Bonus question: Are you able to name what you are most grateful for in just six words? If you want, you can share your response with The New York Times to have a chance for your answer to be published.