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Giving thanks in 2020


In a year when so much has gone awry — so many lives lost, businesses battered, jobs vanished — it strains the imagination to think what we might be thankful for, particularly as the nation enters its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The coming months will likely be, as President-elect Joseph Biden has said, a “dark winter.”

Thanksgiving is, however, all about the audacious nature of hope.

The holiday, first celebrated in the fall of 1621, commemorates the struggle that the original Pilgrims faced and, against all odds, overcame in the New World — and the kinship they felt with the Native Americans who rescued them, helping to provide sustenance to a relatively small band of people who otherwise might have starved. The roughly 50 colonists at the original harvest celebration in Plymouth, Mass., were outnumbered by Native Americans two to one, according to History.com.

The 100 Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower had seen much death between 1620 and 1621: Some 78 percent of the women died during the first winter. Yet they persevered, and survived.

So shall the American people today — thanks in no small measure to our heroes — the doctors, nurses, EMTS, firefighters, police officers, teachers, teachers’ aides, sanitation workers, railroad workers, subway and bus drivers, custodians, cooks, waiters and waitresses, supermarket employees and so many others — who have kept us safe, our education system up and running, and our economy moving. When many others were able to work from home, they put their lives on the line to do their jobs.

As a society, we should take a moment and reflect on their sacrifices over the past nine months.

We can also be thankful for our family and friends. We may not be able to shower them with hugs and kisses as we might want, but we can keep them in our thoughts and close to our hearts.

And we can be thankful for the miracles of modern science. Only 100 years ago, the 1918 pandemic ran wild for two years, killing 50 million worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thanks to technology that allows many of us to work remotely and socially distance, to date we have seen a tenth of the 500 million cases that the world did in 1918-19, and because of modern medical technology, the death toll thus far is one-fiftieth what it was then.

So, while the number of infections and deaths today is unacceptably high, it is not close to the level of suffering experienced a hundred years ago — and let us hope and pray that it remains that way.

Likely, it will. On Saturday, the innovative New York company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals received emergency-use authorization for its experimental antibody treatment for the coronavirus. President Trump received the treatment, and by all accounts it was highly effective. The drug is designed to prevent patients from becoming severely ill by imitating the body’s natural defense system. We can only say, wow!

If all goes well, the Regeneron treatment should prevent many deaths, enabling health officials to safely roll out at least one of the vaccines now in the pipeline without undue political pressure. By April, we could indeed round the corner on this terrible pandemic, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Yes, there has been much despair this year, but there is much hope as well.