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Give thanks even during difficult times

By Scott Baker

Thanksgiving Day ushers us into that moment of so long ago, when the pilgrims left for religious freedom and sought foreign shores of a hoped-for promise land. No doubt the story of the Exodus played heavily in their minds. The story of the people of God going to a promised, yet unseen land, that contained mythical abundance. Some might call it a pipe dream, others might call it blind faith. Whatever you call it, it was the hope that drove them forward.

The pilgrims knew this story because they lived this story. They came to a country but the arrival was hard. So, when harvest time came around and they looked at the bounty set before them they realized that the only thing they had to give back to God was their thanksgiving. And as sophisticated as we have become after such humble beginnings we too gather every year to give thanks to God. We can control a lot of things. We can produce a lot of things. But in the end, we recognize that God’s goodness sustains our very lives.

It is difficult to imagine being very thankful for 2020. To say this year has been one of hardship would be an understatement. However, when we remember the voyagers on the Mayflower and the years that followed their arrival, they too knew about hardship, turmoil and even loss. After what must have been an arduous and harrowing transatlantic trip, they arrived to eke out an existence in a climate, terrain, and whole new world completely unfamiliar to them. To say they had a steep learning curve would be an understatement. They too suffered missteps, stumbles and even tragedy. Yet, according to the story passed down to us, they did indeed gather together and set aside a time of thanksgiving for the providential hand of God that had brought them to the harvest time.

This year, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, many will have to suspend or interrupt old patterns and routines of gathering with friends and family. We are being urged by the CDC and others to forego gathering with loved ones for their sakes as well as our own. And if we are really honest with ourselves, many of us probably don’t feel too thankful because our lives have been turned upside down and sideways. However, it is precisely during times of testing and duress when it is of utmost importance to count the blessings we have and give thanks for them. Perhaps we can look back on this year and give thanks for having time to learn a new skill or hobby. We can look back and give thanks for those in our households whom we’ve spent more time with due to the lockdown and pandemic. Perhaps we can take a moment and give thanks for all the men and women in the medical field working so diligently and indefatigably to care for friends, family, neighbors stricken by COVID-19. Regardless of what it is, take some time this year to give thanks to God for all our many blessings.

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact him at 757-562-4542.