Our View: Giving thanks

Our View: Giving thanks
What are you thankful for? (Courtesy Photo)

Thanksgiving is the holiday that, from an attention perspective, seems to get lost between Halloween and Christmas.

Maybe that’s because it’s less fun for children than dressing up for Halloween or receiving presents on Christmas. Or maybe it’s because the simple act of gathering with loved ones, eating a big meal and counting our blessings, whatever they may be, is less easily commercialized than the holidays in October and December that bookend Thanksgiving.

Some people love to get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live from New York City, or what used to be the Gimbels Parade – now sponsored by Dunkin Donuts – from Philadelphia. Others look forward to watching football on TV or channeling their inner Kennedy for an outside game of family football.

But it’s the simple act of gathering and pausing to give thanks, along with what’s usually a fabulous and food-coma inducing meal, that makes Thanksgiving so special.

Gratitude is an important practice. While expressing gratitude has been turned into an exercise in virtue signaling on social media – where people in recent years have indulged their competitive instincts by taking “gratitude challenges” – the actual practice of giving thanks is a discipline that makes us happier and, frankly, more pleasant companions.

If we are able to cultivate an appreciation for what we have, rather than anger about what we lack, it’s a win-win for our own mental health and that of those around us.

For some, particularly those who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic or have suffered other losses in the past year, Thanksgiving may simply be a time to endure. But hopefully even those who are dealing with loss this holiday season can see glimmers of light through the darkness.

Here’s a wish for this holiday season and beyond: that each of us will strive to be someone else’s glimmer of light.

It’s not just individuals, but also institutions and businesses that have suffered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of Alexandria’s local businesses and nonprofits are struggling, and some have shut their doors during the past 20 months.

As Thanksgiving gives way to the rush to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, one thing we can all do is to support our local businesses and nonprofits as much as possible. That can mean shopping local for gifts or gift cards. For ideas, please see the Holiday Gift Guide in this week’s Alexandria Times on page 13 and the guides that will run each week until Dec. 16. And if you don’t feel like cooking for Thanksgiving or during the holiday season, you can always order your meals from a local restaurant.

Supporting local entities can also mean remembering Alexandria’s nonprofits with year-end giving, no matter how small or large the gift. Check out the Dec. 9 Alexandria Times, where a guide to year-end giving will appear.

The Times staff wishes every reader a Thanksgiving that is safe, happy and filled with gratitude. Despite the trying last two years, Alexandrians have a lot to be thankful for.