Thankfulness In 2020

Thankfulness, Thanksgiving, COVID-19

“What could we possibly be thankful for in 2020?” That’s the question Steve Hartman of the CBS Evening News recently asked his kids in this video. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it. It’s a powerful and moving reflection on giving thanks. 

I suspect many of us might be asking ourselves the same question Mr. Hartman asked his children. His daughter answered, “Well, instead of saying what we’re thankful for, we could say what was hard for us.” Yes, we could. It’s been a hard year in so many ways. But does difficulty negate or diminish Thanksgiving or giving thanks? 

What are gratitude and giving thanks really about? What happens to thankfulness when circumstances are difficult, painful, or not what we want or asked for? St. Paul says we are to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), not just the ones that fulfill our wants and desires. 

Maybe gratitude and thankfulness are about more than simply saying, “Thank you,” or counting our blessings. Maybe they aren’t even defined by the circumstances in our life and world. Maybe they are not so much things we say or do, but a way of being in this world. 

In his book Consolations the poet David Whyte writes, “Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us” (89).

He continues, writing about “taking even one more breath of air,” the miracle of being “part of something, rather than nothing,” and inhabiting “a living world with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of the cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.” “Thanksgiving happens,” he says, “when our sense of presence meets all other presences” (89-90). “To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks” (90).

Maybe 2020 is asking us to wake up, be present, pay attention. “Being unappreciative,” Whyte writes, “might mean we are simply not paying attention” (91).

Let’s not just give our thanks for gifts received, let’s live our thanks – in every color we see, every face we greet, every voice we hear, and every moment we breathe. If we are really awake, really paying attention, how could we not?


  1. Thanks, Michael! The people I connect with on FaceBook seem to be grateful for the time to experience more deeply…whatever it is they mention. The fact that they’ve been able to slow down, to savor, to look, to hear, to read a book again, to jot down a memory, to get lost (in the old way) in talking with a dear friend on the phone, to cook simpler meals or to take the time to try complicated recipes, to talk to their plants! Thankful that they don’t feel like they’re going 100mph inside themselves. Frankly, I felt sorry for the oldest kid in the video—he’s the age when you don’t want to be put on the spot…to say something trite or “stupid” that’s going to be put on the air and bite you on the butt later. But it was truly amazing to hear what the folks he interviewed had to say, and their sincerity. I’m reminded of the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts”—’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be… Wishing you many blessings of thanksgiving this year. Your posts are a blessing to me. In the Peace that passes understanding, Ann


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sr. Ann, the Shaker song fits really well. I am glad you reminded me of that. The witness and faith of the food pantry guests was inspiring.

      I’ve also heard some talk about having the time to slow down. For others it’s been a time of having to balance and do more – work, childcare, online school from home, plus the safety measures.

      I hope you and the community are well. It’s always good to hear from you. Take care. I hope you all have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

      Peace be with you,


  2. I don’t do Facebook and as a former member of St. Phillips when living in Leakey, love your sermons and wish I lived closer. I’m in Kerrville. I wait to receive your sermons via e-mail. I am thankful for so much in my life even though I am spending Thanksgiving only with God present. May God always bless you with the right words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Patricia. Feel free to join us online if you have a chance. We lifestream on Facebook but you can access it even without a FB account.

      I hope you have a holy and happy Thanksgiving.


  3. Thank you Mike. You’re the best Spiritual teacher I’ve had the gift of knowing. God bless you and Cyndi this holiday season. Love, jeannine w.

    Liked by 1 person

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