This Thanksgiving will be a different kind of holiday. This Thanksgiving will be difficult for many. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the country, its effects reach into every home. And that doesn’t include the incredible devastation of wildfires in the West, a record number of powerful hurricanes in the South and, we can’t forget, murder hornets.

Yet the purpose of Thanksgiving remains the same — to pause for just a day and appreciate the special things in our lives.

The holiday traditionally is attributed to the Pilgrims who traveled to North America aboard the Mayflower. More than half of them died during the first few months in the new land, and more would have followed had it not been for the assistance of Squanto, a Native American who had learned English after being kidnapped and then escaping his captors to return to the continent. Squanto taught the Pilgrims the skills needed to survive in their new land. In appreciation, the Pilgrims invited Squanto and members of the Wampanoag people to join them in 1621 for a few days of feasting and giving thanks.

The holiday was enjoyed on a variety of days in America until Abraham Lincoln officially designated a day of thanksgiving in 1863 during one of the bloodiest years of the Civil War as a way to “heal the wounds of the nation.” Since then, the holiday was marked on the fourth Thursday in November except for a few years during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week in the hopes of promoting greater Christmas sales, but the effort fell flat and the holiday soon moved back to its usual date.

Some people might find it difficult to find the spirit of thankfulness this holiday. The pandemic erased jobs for many and created financial difficulties for many more. Nearly every one of us knows a family touched by the virus and, sadly, many of us know families who lost loved ones to the disease. The virus lurks everywhere, waiting to exploit any weakness it can find.

Yet there remains much for which we can give thanks.

Those of us who have avoided the virus — and those who have recovered from it — can appreciate our health. And there are others who have overcome other illnesses, including cancer, who must be thankful this holiday.

Families welcomed newborns and grandchildren this year, both incredible sources of joy. Those who lost loved ones can be thankful for the days they shared with us and the wonderful memories they leave as their legacy.

And, despite the ongoing rancor surrounding the election, we can be thankful for a nation that settles its differences with laws and ballots, not bombs and bullets. We too often forget how precious that can be and how few around the globe can say the same.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our health stands as our most precious thing. This Thanksgiving, follow the advice of experts on ways to protect yourself and others from infection: wear a mask in public; wash your hands often and well; and practice social distancing. Following those steps this year will help ensure everyone can gather again next year.

Keep yourself and those around you healthy this year as you count your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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