There have been moments in the past year that finding a reason to be thankful seemed impossible. This Thanksgiving might well be one of them. With a coronavirus surge out of control throughout the nation, families are skipping the traditional get together and spending the holiday separately. In many households, there will be an empty chair because a loved one is ill, in quarantine, hospitalized, or is among the nearly 260,000 already lost to the pandemic.
As tempting as it might be to set aside the tradition of giving thanks, expressing gratitude might be more important this year than ever, for the sake of our collective perseverance and to maintain hope. Even as we recognize the pain and despair of this moment, we are grateful for many things — and for many people.
At the top of the list: frontline workers, those who, as coronavirus cases rise, can’t stay at home. They are healthcare workers who must enter the rooms of COVID-19 patients when everyone else must stay away. They are workers at the postal service, grocery stores, and gas stations that keep society operating. They are teachers of daycare centers and elementary schools who continue to provide indoor instruction, and the staff members of nursing home facilities who work amidst outbreaks and loss. They are the cooks, wait staff, and bartenders who allow us to have moments of normalcy of outdoor dining. They are SEPTA and Regional Rail drivers and conductors that keep the city moving. They are firefighters and police officers.
Even from the earliest days of the pandemic, the sacrifice of these frontline workers has not gone unnoticed — except by a government that has failed to provide appropriate assistance and hazard pay.
We should all be grateful for the booming participation in our democracy. Though the White House has been intent on spoiling the celebration of democracy because they don’t like the outcome, in terms of participation, 2020 should be celebrated.
Nearly seven million Pennsylvanians participated in the general election — about 800,000 more than in 2016. Despite a historic expansion of vote by mail in the commonwealth, amid tight deadlines, confusing rules (such as double envelopes), and efforts to undermine confidence in the process, the election went seamlessly. A zealous and unhinged effort to find irregularities simply couldn’t prevail, on a large or small scale.
The election didn’t malfunction because of the record number of people in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth who volunteered to work the polls and to help count the votes. County election officials operated under impossible pressure, while trying to work swiftly but rigorously, and as some received death threats.
The people who work on the ground to make our democracy work safeguarded it. And for them, we are incredibly grateful.
It is a shame that we can’t be grateful for Congress for meeting the moment with an adequate relief package — something only the federal government can do on the scale that is required. They must do so before the December holidays. And as we show gratitude to the people working to keep us safe today, everyone should do their part so that come next Thanksgiving, we can be together safely.