When my husband and I got married and decided to raise our family here, the hardest part for me was being away from my parents and sisters and their families, and even cousins, aunts and uncles, on some holidays. Holidays are a big deal in my family — they are about family and being together. We’re kind of a more is more people — more food, more people, more laughing, more cards and board games into the evening.
So, when the kids came along, it was natural that our family would add some traditions of our own.
One of my favorite traditions is the Thanksgiving tree. Since the kids were teeny, tiny, the kids and I have fashioned a Thanksgiving tree. I put a tree branch in a vase and then I cut out construction paper leaves on which we write what we are thankful for and then we hang those leaves on the “tree.” In the past, I’ve mailed construction paper leaves to my family in Minnesota and Robb’s family here. We even set leaves out on the dining room table on Thanksgiving so that neighbors and friends who are celebrating with us can add their thanks.
But this year, I totally failed. I forgot about the Thanksgiving tree entirely until the week before Thanksgiving. How could I have forgotten? Of course there are things to be thankful for this year, even if we have to look a little harder.
I am thankful for my family. Specifically, I am thankful for my husband Robb who has always been our family’s North Star, but who has proven again and again that we are partners in raising our children, in caring for our parents and in running our business.
I am thankful that children are more resilient and flexible than adults. Have there been disappointments? Of course, yes. But our kids have demonstrated grace, maturity and ingenuity in working through those disappointments. All three of our kids have spring birthdays, so of course this year there were no friends over for parties. But the kids took it upon themselves to make each sibling’s birthday special. This pandemic has canceled a lot of events, but it hasn’t canceled our ability to find or make joy.
I am thankful for my colleagues who have rolled with the punches as our work lives changed. My colleagues aren’t the only folks who have taken on more during this pandemic. Lots of school employees and volunteers work to ensure that no child goes hungry. Workers who labor behind the scenes cleaning and sanitizing our hospitals and schools are also working longer hours to ensure our health and safety; they too deserve our gratitude.
Doctors, nurses, nurse aides and other medical practitioners who report to work each day to heal and mend deserve our thanks and respect. All they ask in return is that we each do our small part to protect ourselves and our neighbors.
Teachers are simultaneously teaching in-person and online. They have embraced new technology in an attempt to reach all their students. Some are teaching from home as they have contracted the virus themselves or have been told to quarantine. “Thank you” is not adequate to express my gratitude.
I am thankful for Wyoming sunsets, mountains, lakes and walking trails. More times than I can count in the past nine months, the outdoors has been a tonic for my worried mind. Watching the sun go down behind the Bighorn Mountains, I am reminded of the beauty of this world and how sacred that beauty is. God’s hand is at work in each quaking aspen leaf, each totally unique flake of snow and each butterfly that alights on a flower. If he can take care of every creature of the earth, every plant, the wind and rain, surely he is caring for us too — even during these crazy times.
And more than I ever have been, I am aware of and thankful for the small graces and gestures of kindness that reaffirm people are good. I can’t tell you how many tears I cried this spring when our kids’ schools held special drive-by parades and end-of-school day events. What a powerful reminder of our fundamental human need to love and be loved. I have come to look forward to school drop offs in the morning because I know teacher’s aide and crossing guard Gina Gonzalez will be stationed at the corner of West Brock and Burritt streets, greeting every car with a smile and an enthusiastic wave. Her cheerfulness is such an beautiful reminder at the start of each day that we can always choose happiness.
In that spirit, this week I’m choosing gratitude and happiness.
For those of us who are well in mind and body, let us rejoice for this gift of health. For those of us who have enough to eat, clothing to wear and a house to call home, let us live generously and offer tender care to our neighbors. For those of us with enough, may we come to appreciate our abundance.