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PD Editorial: Finding reasons for gratitude in this unsettling year

On this Thanksgiving Day unlike any other, it would be easy to feel morose.

Eight months into a global pandemic, 60 million people have contracted COVID-19 and 1.4 million, including 260,000 Americans, have died.

We already missed celebrations on Easter, the Fourth of July and Halloween. Now, with infection rates surging to record highs and hospitals struggling to make room for this third wave, California and other states are tightening restrictions, leaving many of us to cancel travel plans and settle for a Thanksgiving feast with empty seats at the table and loved ones present only on a video screen.

Yet we still find plenty of reasons to be thankful.

First, there are the doctors, nurses and other health care workers who selflessly risk their own well-being to care for coronavirus patients. They truly are heroes.

While we mourn each death, we’re grateful for the millions who have recovered.

For that, we are indebted to the scientists and medical researchers who helped develop effective therapies for COVID-19.

With promising results from expedited drug trials in the United States and Europe, it appears that a vaccine may be available soon, giving us reason for optimism about a return to normal before Thanksgiving comes around in 2021.

We’re grateful for the “essential workers,” those who have stayed on the job to ensure that food, water, medicine, fuel, electricity and other necessities are available despite the pandemic. They, too, take on added risk to serve others.

We’re grateful to live in a generous community that supports the resourceful people at the Redwood Empire Food Bank who have distributed an astonishing 22 million meals — twice as many as in a normal year.

We’re also grateful for the diversions that are helping us cope through this extraordinary time: books and music, pets, Sonoma County’s abundance of parks and beaches and the handy gadgets that allow us to stay in contact (if not in touch) with friends and loved ones.

Finally, we’re grateful that so many of our neighbors continue to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 – wearing a mask, keeping a safe social distance and steering clear of large gatherings, including for this year Thanksgiving dinner with extended families and friends.

We wish some of our leaders were setting a better example.

Thanksgiving has been a national holiday since 1863, but its roots go much deeper.

The first Thanksgiving celebration was in 1621, about a year after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World. Commemorating a successful harvest, and joined by members of the Wampanoag tribe who had shared knowledge of farming, fishing and hunting, the Pilgrims celebrated survival and looked forward to better times to come.

Four centuries and countless challenges later, we’re still a nation of survivors, and we can still look forward to better days, including traditional Thanksgiving Days, ahead.

Pass the potatoes, and try not to spill gravy on the iPad.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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