Scarcity, rather than abundance, may strike many as the keynote of Thanksgiving 2020, given the absence of family and friends who are following public health guidance during the pandemic and staying home.
But perhaps we could redirect our thanksgiving reflection this year, for there are many other people who have been present for us, who have placed themselves at risk to do “essential” work that meets our daily needs and keeps our communities up and running.
Think of all the remarkable, courageous people who are staffing hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores. Think of postal service workers and delivery truck drivers. Farm workers and others laboring in the food industry. Biomedical researchers at work on developing new vaccines. Journalists and news outlets that have kept us abreast of events. Park service employees supervising a surge of visitors in need of the solace of nature. Civic leaders monitoring pandemic circumstances on the ground. Election officials and poll workers who have kept our political system democratic, pulling off the most participatory election in our history, despite pandemic challenges.
These are just a few of the people we can be thankful for — you can no doubt think of many more. Thus, as we celebrate Thanksgiving 2020, I invite us to remember all who have helped us weather this pandemic, giving thanks for their essential service on behalf of our common good.
Remember not only the diversity of gifts they have placed in service of our welfare, during this season of racial reckoning, remember also the diversity of racial and ethnic groups represented among those who have labored on our behalf. Remember minoritized racial groups that have disproportionally borne the brunt of this pandemic and let us hasten to work for the day when no group bears such burdens. God’s justice demands it!
Perhaps that work can begin by giving thanks to God for creating human diversity to stretch our minds and hearts and enrich our common life. Theologian Brian Bantum in “The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World” poignantly captures the challenge and opportunity before us: “We were made like fountains that are always being filled by a stream of living water and pouring out into the other fountains around us. … Our lives are made whole in these differences. Difference is the opportunity to choose one another and to choose God.”