Have A Thankful Thoughtsgiving 2020: Through the River and Over the Woods
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
By Allan Shedlin, Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
EDITOR'S NOTE: I originally wrote this for my own family, mindful of so many other families who have suffered greater hardships during this covidious year – one where there is so much hunger; when parents are forgoing meals so their children can eat; when people are being evicted; when many have lost loved ones who've succumbed to COVID, and more.
This totally topsy-turvy year continues to be rife with opportunities for disappointment and sadness. The drumbeat of grim statistics about the coronavirus pandemic's continued spread seems to overwhelm the occasional hint of hopefulness. The various markers we might have used in the past to provide certainty over uncertainty are batted away by the realities of cascading natural and manmade disasters.
Despite the sadness and disappointment being magnified as our seasonal holiday plans are rethought, I battle to have my fundamentally positive and optimistic nature prevail. While continually aware that joyfulness is what this time of year is supposed to be about, my Thanksgiving planning has progressed through several stages.
The first stage was accepting that how I celebrate will need to be different this year. The second stage was deciding that facts will overrule emotions in my decision making. The third stage was understanding that the pace of ever-changing facts, upon which my plans would be decided, were in continual flux with an increasingly sobering and frightening negative trajectory. The fourth was admitting that disappointment of one type or another regarding this year’s seasonal celebrations is a “given.” And the fifth was reminding myself that each of my family members is entitled to make their own decisions based upon a thoughtful risk-benefit analysis and free of judgment from others.
With those stages acknowledged, I became free to let my core positivity ascend and to shift my perspective away from feeling sorry for myself and those I hold most dear. I remembered a poignant incident that occurred about 300 years ago, during my freshman year in college. In the midst of the pressure of studying for my first collegiate mid-terms, I decided to take a break from the intensity of studying by responding to a flyer that invited students to attend an informational session by a group collecting holiday goods for local families in need.
The upperclassman in charge, aware that those of us present were feeling both intense pressure and a bit sorry for ourselves, began by thanking us for being there and then telling us about how he once met a barefoot man who told him he was sad because he had no shoes...until he met a man who had no feet. That mental image has stuck with me for three centuries and is summoned during times when I may be tempted to feel sorry for myself.
And so, as I deal with my very real disappointment at being denied an opportunity to gather with those dearest to me – and especially deprived of yet another hugging exchange opportunity – I’ve decided to reconceive this year’s Thanksgiving in favor of a “Thankful Thoughtsgiving.”
For those of us who've made the decision to dial back the festivities and have chosen to forgo this annual gathering, we might consider embracing the opportunity it provides to give even more thought to what we are truly thankful for; what we will miss most about not gathering; and perhaps even to being honest with ourselves about what we will not miss.
As we shelter in place – mindful to be thankful we have a place to shelter – let’s set a specific time to gather virtually with each of those dearest to us. During a telephone or Zoom connection, let’s share at least one thing about them we are thankful for and/or one happy memory of a Thanksgiving past.
We may very well discover that the emotions exchanged are more filling than the traditional Thanksgiving meal. And rather than wallowing in the disappointment of a tradition denied, we might take delight in a tradition newly created.
As we virtually toast each other, let’s make sure our glasses are at least half full, as opposed to half empty.
May you and yours have a healthy, merry, and thankful Thoughtsgiving!
For the many who will struggle with food insecurity, homelessness, and health crises this holiday season, if you are able, we hope you will consider a thoughtful donation to your local foodbanks and/or one of these organizations serving families in need:
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, and now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.