Thanksgiving is different this yeear

Posted on November 1, 2020

For as many years as I can remember, I make pilgrimage to my home town of Buffalo to spend time with family and celebrate Thanksgiving with the Northmans. The Northmans are dear family friends and they invite anywhere up to 40 people to their beautiful home nestled by creek. Starting around 3:00 in the afternoon, guests begin to arrive for wine and appetizers. The mushroom rolls, spinach cheese squares, BBQ salami slices, and dips are so plentiful that I omit lunch that day. Everyone refills their crystal wine glasses often and within an hour the house is full of laughter and chatter. Dinner is served after 7::00 p.m., not that any of us care, and many don’t leave until close to 10:00 p.m. Well, like many of you, I won’t be doing my usual Thanksgiving. I resigned myself to it months ago, but it is still sad.

How has your Thanksgiving changed? Covid has certainly altered our lives in many, many ways. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and other honored observances are definitely going to be different this year. But here we are. We are awaiting an effective vaccine and in this twilight, we still move through the months and have to find ways to live.

During the High Holy Days, I spoke about the importance of keeping fear in perspective and instead focusing on awe. Yirah, awe, can expand our focus from our concerns to encompass wonder, novelty, and even the everyday miracles. It can help one focus on blessings and anchor us in times of uncertainty.

I, for one, take great pleasure in the taste and texture of food. A perfectly ripe and crunchy apple. A roasted pie pumpkin that is ready to be baked into bread or pie. The sip of a good glass of wine at night. These things bring pleasure in the moment. But for more lasting wellbeing, I like to focus on relationships. We are all so lucky to have family and friends that we love. Even if we aren’t able to see them in person, we can still connect with the good ole fashioned phone and of course many of us are now experts utilizing Zoom, Facetime, and Skype.

And as we go beyond our human interactions, there are moments to step outside and study the configuration of the clouds, feel the coolness of the wind on our cheeks, and examine the different shades and textures of our plants. It is all part of God’s world and we are here, lucky to be living in it. How beautiful is our world. How beautiful is life. We are part of an intrigue web of creation spanning years beyond count and the ability to fill our days with expansive thoughts, ideas, and experiences. There is so much to savor, there is so much to do, even with a pandemic that has yet to be tamed.

And so, my Thanksgiving will indeed be different, as will yours. However, there’s always opportunity, even or especially in adversity. I will choose to focus on blessings, awe, and my deep sense of gratitude for living at this time. I am grateful for the delight of food, the loves and joys in my life, and the connection that I feel with you. May we all have many reasons to be thankful and have a sense of yirah, awe, in our lives.

I wish you and your families a meaningful holiday season.