Thanksgiving allows us to reflect on the things we are thankful for. It is particularly relevant now, as the second year has seen unprecedented restrictions and a new pandemic. The past year saw many government power abuses that had long-lasting effects. Americans are extremely discontented, and scholars fear that we may be on the verge of an historic slide downward, for the first-time in more than 150 years.
It doesn’t matter what problems there are, though, one can still be grateful for the kindness and charity that people have shown despite all of them.
Last summer I lost my mother. My mom was an amazing person, and she was one of my best mothers. (I admit that I may be biased. But I also take serious. Her personality was rich and humorous, she was intellectually curious and easy to please. Even though she lived far from me and our daughters in France, she was still a constant presence in our lives. Even during her last two years of chronic illness, travel bans and other obstacles to our being together, this was still the case. FaceTime sessions were set up to help her grandchildren bake macarons or pain au chocolat.
It is an understatement to say I was devastated by her death. But, this is a time when I cannot think about it without feeling profound gratitude to my colleagues and friends who went out of their ways to help us bear this loss.
They were there for me, even though we lived six hours apart by an ocean. My friends, whom I hadn’t seen for many years, reached out to me with encouraging words. The letters they wrote to me shared their personal experiences and gave me assurance that it would all be okay. A care package was sent to me with vodka and Bourbon, my two favorite liquors, a DoorDash gift certificate, and other thoughtful presents.
While I am grateful to my friends, my colleagues at work will be an everlasting part of my life. My daughters and I stayed longer in France than we originally intended to for my mother’s funeral. They were very flexible. Because I didn’t have any concerns about my cats, colleagues cancelled all plans to look after them. My colleague sent me a Victor Hugo poem, in French. This was so powerful that our youngest daughter read it to her grandmother at the funeral. Beautiful hydrangeas—my mother’s favorite flowers—were planted in my yard as a reminder that life goes on and there is so much beauty in the world. Memphis Barbecue came to our rescue a few days later. I was so happy that it arrived.
It was a difficult experience that reminded of me how our nation, regardless of its political ills, is still made up millions of people who love one another. This is evident in the times when older people helped their neighbors and restaurants took action to care for their neighborhoods. The pandemic was also a time when investors invested millions into helping to ease the crisis.
I’m most thankful to be able to call home and care for my family. It goes far beyond just comforting our friends and family. It is evident in America’s charitable giving. Giving USA, a philanthropy monitoring organization, reported that Americans gave $471.44 trillion to charity in 2020. This figure was based on data from Giving USA. charities.” Unprecedented and unanticipated, this number is staggering.
The United States is fortunate to have charitable giving and altruism so deeply rooted in American culture and history. We can see from Alexis de Tocqueville’s report that the special civic and economic roles of charity and voluntarism have been an integral part of American culture since centuries.
This tradition is what I’m thankful for.
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