Gratitude is universally endorsed as a desirable activity.
The Old Testament verses on gratitude focus on giving thanks to God. So that is likely implicit in Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians to:
Rejoice evermore…. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1
Elder Uchtdorf highlighted gratitude in his recent Quick Start Guide to Life. The Yale University course on Wellness emphasizes gratitude as a key activity to support wellness. Every professional seeking to help individuals achieve greater happiness or fulfillment includes gratitude as a part of their prescription.
One suggestion that I have recently adopted is to write five things you are grateful for in your journal at the end of the day. It’s a particularly pleasant way to capture the events of the day.
Whether called by its original name or by something else (Remembrance Day in Britain, Veterans Day in America), today is a day to be thankful for the peace that ended World War I. Having had the privilege of being in London during Remembrance Day in the past, it was striking to see the profusion of stylized poppies everywhere.
John McCrae had been a professor at McGill University in Montreal before the war. He wrote his famous poem, In Flanders Fields, after learning of the death of a former student who had become a soldier. McCrae, a military medic himself, would also die before the war ended. But his poem lived on, testament to the love and life of those whose graves were now marked by crosses in fields full of poppies.
For those of us living in the United States, we are also coming up on the annual celebration of thanks, held on the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving, here in America, is redolent with tradition, food, and family.
Alas, this year it is not wise to gather with those outside your immediate household. Independent of whether people feel like social distancing and masks are their favorite things, the fact is that many locations (notably Utah) are at or fast approaching full capacity in their hospitals.
Among my small group of seven relatives here in Virginia, we have three who are at elevated risk of harm were they to contract COVID. So we are all planning to quarantine for two weeks in hopes of spending Thanksgiving together.
But as I correspond with extended family, I am seeing the delightful ways others are handling this unusual year.
Several members of my extended family are spreading the favorite foods of Thanksgiving throughout the month. Tales of pumpkin pies and ambrosia fruit salad have been shared so far.
We’ve also used our weekly Zoom call to discuss fun ways to experience Thanksgiving together, though physically separated.
One activity that has featured in many past Thanksgivings is watching a film together. It’s always been possible to agree to watch the same film simultaneously while talking via teleconference. But now at least one streaming service has set up a mode where the same film can be watched in synch while viewers chat via their chosen teleconference technology.
This week the hip among us told old fogeys like me about the online game Among Us, which can be played either with other random folks or with a specific group of friends.
We have several licenses for Table Top Simulator amongst us, which allows people to play any of a number of games. My brother also shared a website for playing card games (https://playingcards.io/) that doesn’t require purchase. And there are other fun online games we’ve enjoyed together in the past.
Another favorite game for our family is Gift Trap, a party game that hilariously gives you insight into what the other players care about. I see it was voted “Best Party Game of the Year” by Games Magazine in 2008, which certainly agrees with how much we’ve enjoyed it. The plan is to set up a device showing the board, so all can see the cards, then do the bidding phase via text to a trusted agent who can interact with the board and who isn’t competing.
Another game I enjoy that I’m told works very well to play remotely is Disney’s Villainous. The way this game plays allows each player to focus on their own “villain” without having to touch others. So this works well over a video conference. And I understand Villainous is readily available in stores at the moment.
I don’t know of a way to replace the early-morning football games that were a tradition for our congregation. And I’m not certain that kids popping black olives onto their fingers or grabbing a fist of butter works as well on a video call. So there is no way for every traditional Thanksgiving activity to occur remotely.
Still, as we strive to give thanks in every circumstance, we can (with some planning) find ways to celebrate our day of thanks in unique and delightful ways that don’t incur a risk of further increasing the pressure on a hospital system that is already at its limit.
- KJV, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. The NIV renders this advice as “give thanks in all circumstances.” ↩