As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself with a heavy heart, knowing that we will not be seeing our loved ones this holiday season.
In an effort to continue to see our loved ones for many holiday seasons to come, and unable to effectively quarantine since Elysha and I spend entire days in rooms filled with 15-20 other human beings, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving as a family this year, absent any invited guests or trips to the homes of friends or family.
It’s admittedly a downer.
It’s also the right thing to do.
Yesterday I taught my students about the famed Stanford marshmallow experiments, which found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.
In other words, people who can delay gratification tend to be more successful in life.
All you need to do is look at people who planned for their retirement rather than spending all of their money upon receiving it to know this is true.
So delaying the gratification of this holiday season in return for many future holiday seasons makes a lot of sense, though some people will probably do otherwise, thus endangering the lives of everyone around them, including my family, who spends our days in public schools.
I hope people are better than that.
Another way to mitigate the heartache of this year is the gift of perspective.
My worst Thanksgiving took place in 1992 when I was 21 years old. I had just been rescued from homelessness, but the family who did the rescuing were celebrating Thanksgiving with family members in a neighboring town, leaving me alone for the day. My mother was living alone and eating via a feeding tube at the time and didn’t want to even acknowledge Thanksgiving, and the rest of my family and friends weren’t aware of my situation, so none had invited me to celebrate with them.
I found myself eating hot dogs and candy bars from 7-11 before heading to the cineplex in Brockton, MA to watch Unforgiven in a completely empty movie theater.
I remember sitting in the third or fourth row, feeling as alone as I have ever felt.
When I think about that Thanksgiving, the prospect of spending this year with Elysha and the kids – cooking a turkey, watching football and maybe a movie, wrestling with Charlie, playing board games, and maybe starting my day with a round of golf if the temperature is right – it sounds pretty fantastic.
Hopefully you haven’t spent a Thanksgiving day utterly alone like I did, but if you ever experienced a less-than-festive holiday season, perhaps keep that in mind if your Thanksgiving Day this year won’t be exactly what you envisioned prior to the pandemic.
I’ll be counting my blessings on Thanksgiving, for which I have many, even if my Thanksgiving Day is populated by fewer friends and family than most. And I’ll be looking forward to Thanksgiving Day next year, when the world should be in a much better place and the gatherings that we have come to know and love can happen again.
Do us all a favor this holiday season and don’t fail the marshmallow test. If you can’t quarantine before and after your travels, don’t travel. Avoid gatherings. Hunker down. Change your plans and skip your usual holiday traditions this year so that you, your family and friends, and the people around you can celebrate many more Thanksgivings to come.