Thanksgiving 2020: Finding Gratitude Despite the Pandemic
To find gratitude during these difficult times, try thinking small.
Posted November 24, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
This is a difficult Thanksgiving season for most of us. It is for me. Last year, our son, our daughter-in-law, and our granddaughter came from about an hour away, and our oldest friend came too. All six of us shared a delicious feast. This Thanksgiving, my husband and I will be eating by ourselves.
If you’re like me, you may be aware on an intellectual level of the many blessings in your life, but just not “feeling it” as the expression goes. For example, have you been reminding yourself that you’re fortunate despite all the COVID-19 restrictions, but it hasn’t made you feel particularly grateful? Or, have you been calling to mind all the people in the world who have it so much worse than you do in an effort to make yourself feel grateful for what you have … but hasn’t been working?
If you said “yes” to either of these experiences, then you know how I’ve been feeling at times.
As Zen master Jiashan said: "When a dragon appears in the water, the fish don't notice the pearl in the dragon's mouth." When that dragon is hanging around me, I can spend hours telling myself that I must find those pearls. But sometimes I just can’t. Getting down on myself for this only makes me feel worse. It doesn’t lift my mood or make me feel any more gratitude toward my life.
So this Thanksgiving, strange as it might seem, I decided to try a tactic that’s worked for me in the past. Instead of trying to talk myself into big gratitude—a lecture that is always packed with judgmental “shoulds” and “musts”—I decided to think small. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Thinking big: “I must be grateful every single day that, because my husband and I have been so strict about taking precautions against getting the virus, that I feel safe.”
Thinking small: “I’m grateful that, even though I’m stuck at home, the leaves on the tree outside my window have turned a pretty yellow color.”
Thinking big: “I should never forget to be grateful to my supportive family even though they can’t come here for Thanksgiving Dinner this year.”
Thinking small: “That was thoughtful of my daughter to text me today.”
Thinking big: “I should be appreciating all the things I can still do even though I’m sheltering-in-place.”
Thinking small: “I’m grateful I’ve discovered that doing jigsaw puzzles is fun and relaxing.”
Thinking big: “I need to feel blessed every day that my health problems are not life-threatening.”
Thinking small: “I’m grateful that my pain levels aren’t very high today.”
Thinking big: “I should spend this Thanksgiving Day remembering everything I’m grateful for in this life.”
Thinking small: “I’m grateful that I have someone to eat with this Thanksgiving.”
Thinking small doesn’t mean trying to talk myself out of my unappreciative mood by giving myself a lecture about everything I have to be grateful for. Instead, it means, first, acknowledging that I feel pretty thankless sometimes, and then looking around for some little thing to be grateful for.
Finding that little thing—the yellow leaves on that tree, a text from my daughter, discovering something I can do despite COVID-19 restrictions—opens my heart a little, and once that hard shell around my heart softens, it can open a little more to all the pearls that life is offering me even though I won’t get my first choice about how to spend Thanksgiving.
So, if gratitude is hard for you to find during this Thanksgiving season, look around and see if you can find one or two little things that might help you feel good about your life as it is.
In other words, think small.
With gratitude to all of you who faithfully read my work,
You might also like this lighthearted piece: “What I'm Really Thankful for This Thanksgiving”