While we rail and wring our hands over climate change – for many justifiable reasons – it does seem to be providing the Alleghenies with longer, more temperate transition seasons. Spring seems to come earlier, and autumn lingers.
Here I was on the second Saturday in November, mowing the lawn one more time. The day was delightful, especially by mid-November standards: sunny and mild with no November nip to the variable breeze.
The day was made for puttering outside, cutting grass, mulching leaves, burning dried cuttings and putting finishing touches on the compost pile for the winter. Neighbors were out doing similar chores.
It was a semblance of normalcy amid a very abnormal year. However, things weren’t normal in my neighborhood. At least not yet.
One neighbor smiled and waved as he cut his grass but, rather atypically, had nothing to say. While talking with another neighbor, his wife half-emergef from the doorway to get the mail, glanced at us then went back inside without waving or making some comment, which was highly unusual for her.
Although signs and flags and banners slowly are leaving our neighborhood, reserve remains.
Some of this goes back to the earliest days of the pandemic. Abruptly our impromptu backyard gatherings assumed an awkwardness as we adjusted to social distancing. Get-togethers decreased.
Then came the Election. Signs sprouted in neighborhood locations where they’d never been in the past. We all took note of which and where the signs were and weren’t. Despite October’s beautiful weather, people didn’t appear outside much and weren’t talking – at least to each other in person.
Perhaps they were too busy inside, spending time on social media, making posts that I never would have associated with those people had I not seen the posts for myself. Never much of a fan of social media, I’m even less so these days. It certainly is no replacement for neighbors, especially now.
Yet with an election remaining unsettled weeks after Election Day and a pandemic fully living into its name, we are approaching Thanksgiving. My struggle is less with finding reasons to be thankful than with the realization that so many people cannot share those reasons this year.
My health is good, as is the health of every member of my extended family – at least at the moment. But across this nation and around the world so many people are sick and dying from COVID-19.
My home is spacious and comfortable – even in a lockdown situation; many, though, are confined to small or inadequate spaces, especially in assisted living centers. My household has a reasonably well-stocked freezer. Others have rather bare cupboards.
Neither my work nor my income is drastically affected by the pandemic. So many others cannot say the same, and too many of them have to enter harm’s way every day just to earn their living.
While frustrated and saddened by our inability to celebrate the holidays together as we typically would, my family will find workarounds to be together around Thanksgiving and Christmas. So many other families cannot or will not be able to gather in any meaningful way on those holidays
Half of this nation is thankful for and celebrating the apparent outcome of this Election. The other half is angry and disputing that apparent outcome. Thankfulness is not in their hearts at the moment.
As Thanksgiving Day of 2020 approaches, I am grateful for all of the blessings that God has poured over me and my family this year. Yet I am saddened by the realization that far too many people will find it hard to be thankful.
They are our neighbors. Many of them are struggling with health, housing, living conditions, employment, family situations and, yes, this Election.
While we can’t fix these things, this year especially we can love our neighbors and give them reasons to feel thankful.
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