Every month seems to have its focal point. In September it’s “back to school.” October activities all point to the very last day of the month – Halloween. In November we turn our thoughts to turkey, family, pumpkin pie, and giving thanks for our many blessings. This is a season of gratitude and appreciation. While we may not sit at a Norman Rockwell, picture-perfect Thanksgiving table loaded with a sumptuous feast, many of us will spend the day with full bellies, huge smiles, surrounded by a loving family, all looking forward to more fun and celebration at Christmas.

Yet I can’t help but think of those for whom giving thanks will be a challenge. The events of the past year (or two) almost seem surreal – like a bad horror movie with a poorly written script. Hurricanes, earthquakes, countless forest fires – no one would believe that all these things could happen in succession, in fact simultaneously. Add to all this a global pandemic that most of us thought would be over in a few months, but has persisted for over a year and a half. It is hard to imagine the number of people who have lost homes, possessions, pets, friends, and family members. Millions will have an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table. Many will not even have the table.

If you are dreading the approaching holidays, wondering how you will cope with significant loss, it might help to know that you are not alone. Especially this year there will be many who find themselves thinking more about what they have not, than what they have. I offer no judgment here. I have been among them. Still, the fact that we grieve, tells us that we have been blessed. We only grieve the loss of that which is good, what we have enjoyed, those we have loved, and those who have loved us. If we have enjoyed the love and support of someone who was good, kind, generous, and beautiful, we have been blessed and we can be thankful.

In the end, all that we are privileged to enjoy in life is a gift. Home, clothes, car, food, church, health, friends, family, rewarding work, music, and laughter: it’s all God’s free gift. Now here’s the thing about gifts: we don’t control them. We don’t control when a gift is given, what it will be, how long it will keep, if it will be something expected or a total surprise. These gifts are ours not to control, hoard, or manipulate, but to care for and appreciate. I have no idea how long I can enjoy some of the gifts I’ve been given. The reminder that I could lose any one of them or all of them tomorrow is an inspiration to cherish them today, to hold family and friends closer, and to be less attached to things that in the long run really don’t matter.

In this coming season of harvest and thanksgiving let us be thankful for our blessings great and small; and let us stand in solidarity with those who have reaped sorrow and despair. Do you hear the call to be a blessing?