These are trying times in the United States, but we have been through hardships before and survived.
Many of us will be dining alone or in very small groups this Thanksgiving. We won’t be flying across the country or driving to grandmother’s house for the big family celebration, complete with laughter, conversation and football.
Communitywide events like Urbana’s Turkey Trot have been canceled, and even the fairly recent tradition of holiday shopping on Thanksgiving night is a victim of COVID-19.
Coronavirus cases are again on the rise, and the increase in the number of deaths is alarming, having nearly doubled in Illinois in the last two weeks. Further, many of us have been touched by the death of friends or relatives who are among the nearly 260,000 victims of this strange, alien killer.
It’s enough to wonder what there is to be thankful for during this grave time of darkness and distress. And all that seems to lie ahead, along with winter’s cold, is illness, death and isolation.
Yet we can take heart from the history of the Thanksgiving holiday and how it often seems to take a turn during periods of great crisis. After all, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 essentially was a celebration by the Pilgrims of their survival.
In 1777, the Continental Congress called for the first national Thanksgiving holiday — during the Revolutionary War. In 1863, during the depths of a deadly Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the nation would celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
And in 1941 — just two weeks before the United States would enter World War II — President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation officially making the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day.
These times are no less challenging, and yet life goes on — with the exceptional help of medical and public-health professionals, everyday retail workers, teachers instructing our children under challenging circumstances, social workers and volunteers aiding the homeless and impoverished, and police and first responders maintaining order.
In Champaign County and other parts of East Central Illinois, citizens are doing their part to keep COVID-19 in check. The number of Champaign County deaths so far (47) is well below comparable counties, and the number of recent cases per capita in Champaign, Coles, DeWitt and a handful of other counties is among the lowest in the state.
There are plenty of reasons to be thankful on this holiday, particularly for science, wisdom, leadership, cooperation, courage and resilience. Because of those qualities, there is every reason to believe that we will be able to enjoy a feast of food, fellowship and family again next Thanksgiving.