Tomorrow, American families will gather together to give thanks for their blessings. Some, like me, will prepare dinner for one (chicken and dressing, keeping it simple) and keep in touch with family through phone calls and texts, though this year there's one less family member to joke around with.
Even with the bad that's gone on this year--Jan. 6, more covid deaths, the hapless Afghanistan withdrawal, etc.--there are still reasons to give thanks. A few of mine:
• Fall colors. I don't think anyone really knew what to expect this year, but I've seen some spectacular foliage just in the past weekend during my trip to Alma for my brother's memorial service. I'm sure Corey would have loved how the trees at the Performing Arts Center were showing out in shades of red. I've also seen wonderful photos on my Facebook feed of ginkgoes, maples and other trees in all their autumn glory. All those colors make the colder air more bearable, and they definitely put me in the mood for Thanksgiving.
• Family. This is more than the one you're born into; it's also the family you make for yourself with friends and other loved ones. While my brothers, cousins and others are always going to be my family, I have wonderful, caring friends and co-workers who've helped me make it through some pretty rough times. Some are scattered in other states, and some are right here, which comes in handy considering the bulk of my blood family is three hours away. Family is who you love and makes you feel loved.
• Having a roof over my head. It's not a great house, and I wish I could afford the kind of house I really want (and isolated to boot), but it keeps me dry and warm in the fall and winter, and cool in the spring and summer. Plus, there's Boo the warehouse cat who comes around on weekends for a few skritches and some food. That's not bad.
• Freedom. We are free to do most things we want, as long as they don't hurt others (remember, all our rights come with responsibilities and limitations, and one of those responsibilities is accepting the consequences of our actions that hurt ourselves or other people). We are free to worship, or not, as we want (just don't try to install your version of your religion as the state religion, and learn to take "no" as an answer when someone doesn't want to be proselytized), and free to speak our minds, within reason (libel and "fightin' words" aren't protected, for example). We're free to protest--again, as long as the protest doesn't hurt anyone; when it turns violent, it's no longer a protest. Many people fought and were wounded or died to preserve our freedoms. If nothing else, you should thank them.
• Music. When I'm feeling down, I know that I can always head over to YouTube or one of my streaming accounts to listen to something that calms me, like Adele or some classical strings (Zuill Bailey is a favorite), or something that just makes me happy, like Ed Sheeran or The Dead South. And there are always wonderful parody artists like Chris Mann or The Holderness Family that consistently make me laugh. Music has been a big part of my life since I was a kid, always singing (except for that time my stage fright rushed me off a stage at a 4-H talent show), through college and the multiple ensemble groups I sang with. I don't sing much anymore (the last time might have been at a family reunion), but my brother Mitch still sings and plays guitar. I'm still his biggest fan.
• A sense of humor. Sometimes it's the only thing that will get you through the tough times. Finding the bright side when everything seems dark can be hard, but a bit of humor helps (though I really did not need to know what Corey said his porn name would be; still, it was funny). My sense of humor can be weird and a little dark at times, but it's mostly silly, so you shouldn't be surprised to see me watching one of the Bugs Bunny opera cartoons, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" or "Young Frankenstein" and chortling like a mad woman when I'm not saying (or singing) the lines with the characters.
It takes a brave person or critter to watch comedy with me. I'm told I can be incredibly annoying.
Yeah, and ...? You knew I snort-laugh and cackle before you sat down, buddy.
I know I've been blessed. I have a job when so many people have had to leave journalism because of the closure of media outlets or because the conditions (wages, rising threats and acts of violence, etc.) became too hard to accept. Others have left, sometimes involuntarily, after becoming disillusioned. Still others found better-paying and less-stressful jobs. I'm also still able to work at home while the pandemic continues, and not everyone gets to do that.
When I'm at my lowest, I count my blessings, and usually find I have more to be thankful for than I thought. You and me, we're still above ground. We're still breathing, and probably making someone curse under their breath (that can be a good thing). We're lucky.
We're blessed, and we should be thankful for that.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.