In difficult times, thanksgiving can be healthy

2020 has been a tough year.

That may be one of the few things Americans agree on, pretty much universally.

We’re sick of COVID, even though most of us haven’t actually had it. We’re tired of the restrictions, we’re unhappy about the numbers, we want to see kids go back to school.

We’ve seen riots. Even on a local level it seems like people are more stressed, unhappy. Rancor abounds.

It’s been difficult and the prolonged pandemic is testing us all, in many ways than simply avoiding the virus itself.

It leaves us wondering how best to handle this stress that we certainly weren’t expecting last New Year’s Day.

Answer: Be thankful.

Which is why Thanksgiving Day may be particularly important this year.

This isn’t just some religious notion, though it certainly is a principle espoused by just about every major religion out there.

It’s not just that advice we heard from Mom: “Quit whining.”

Psychologists, doctors, college professors, musicians, ministers, scientists – well, really, thinking people in almost all walks of life have a focused appreciation for the value of thankfulness, and a lot of research has been done on the subject, in many fields.

An “Atlantic” magazine writer got this email from a professor she was interviewing for an article on gratitude: “Grateful for your calling attention to this important virtue without which we would not be fully human!!!!!”

Harvard Medical School, in its “Healthbeat” newsletter, included an article entitled “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier.”

“Gratitude,” it said, “is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.

“With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

The author noted that psychologists have found that people who focus on what’s good in their lives have more positive emotions, better health, strong relationships, deal better with adversity and more.

Apparently, thankfulness is more than just a virtue.

But it is that too, and in the wild and crazy world we’ve been living in this year, with the problems we’ve experienced, a little virtue might be welcome.

So, on that note, what do we have to be thankful for in Sweet Home?

– Generally good health. Frankly, until recently there have been, really, very few cases of COVID, or other illnesses, for that matter. Yes, we’ve seen a surge lately (see page 17) , but all those precautions appear to have paid off for a lot of us, and we should be grateful. COVID is not a gentle illness for many.

– Healthy local elections. Nine City Council candidates, three candidates for the contested County Commission seat and our 17th District state House of Representatives (following a very competitive Republican primary last spring) and our 9th District state Senate seat – it’s pretty hard to ask for more in a community our size.

Competitive elections are healthy because, often, the cream rises to the top. We appreciate the efforts of candidates, who were severely hindered by COVID in their ability to get out and meet voters, and we salute those who did find ways to do that.

– Volunteerism. Sweet Home is known for stepping up when there’s a need, and there are, coincidentally, two stories in this very issue of the newspaper that highlight exactly that – high school kids who, of their own volition, decided to make the effort to help the victims of the wildfire, and Rotary Club members and others who have built platforms to help local homeless folks stay dry in the wet weather. Compassion is a virtue too.

– Sports. We’ve all been hearing about how kids are suffering from lack of activity and interaction with others, since they can’t go to school. We’re thankful for the efforts made by local coaches and school administrators to try to establish some sense of normalcy for local young people, dealing with truncated circumstances and getting very creative to provide opportunities.

These include trips to out-of-state tournaments where competition is allowed, setting up volleyball courts on the turf at Husky Field to let our high school team have some fun playing someone besides themselves, and having a girls vs. boys soccer scrimmage game for the same reason, as well as to give the girls a chance to play at home.

– All the things we should normally be thankful for. Let’s see, the majority of Sweet Home residents seem to be well-stocked with food, clothing and other necessities. Yeah, there have been inconveniences and the coronavirus restrictions have been downright irritating, but a lot of those “problems” are more inconveniences than looming challenges. Sure, the economic fallout is a looming issue that we may need to address locally.

But look out the window. There’s Foster Lake. There’s Mt. Jefferson off in the distance. We live just minutes away from some of the most beautiful spots in the United States, literally.

Build your own list. If you have a mom who loves you, that’s a good start.

Hang in there and Happy Thanksgiving.