With the approach of Thanksgiving, I have been musing about the annual list of blessings that appropriately comprise my prayers of gratitude to God. This year, I plan to add something new.

Like many of you, I remain truly grateful for the love of family and friends, the purpose given to my life by my vocation, and the beauty and tranquility of the place I call home, that really is “almost heaven.” Always in my prayers of Thanksgiving, I include Davis & Elkins College and our mission to transform lives.  This year, I wonder if COVID-19 has a place in those prayers?

So as not to confuse, in no way am I suggesting the death, sickness, pain, economic and social disruption of this horrific pandemic is a blessing. Please do not misunderstand my intention. However, I do believe we have learned some lessons and come to appreciate many things as blessings that we simply took for granted before March 2020.

As human beings, we are social creatures. We find meaning and identity in relationships we share with others. One and a half years ago, almost overnight, our world changed. So much that was “normal” became high risk in a global pandemic. Consider the seismic change from the following examples:  sitting in a classroom to learn; the simple act of a walk in the park with friends; a meal with extended family; attending a play; seeing a smile on an unmasked face; playing a sport; holiday parties; meeting face-to-face with work colleagues; singing in worship; hugging or shaking hands; attending a festival; celebrating a life at a funeral; covered dish dinners; visiting loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals;  and celebrating a graduation. This list, partial for certain, reminds us how our lives were turned upside down.

Thankfully, as a result of our scientists and health care professionals, many of these missing parts of our lives are slowly and cautiously being restored. However, I don’t think I will ever again take any of these for granted.

If there is anything good that comes from such tragedy and turmoil, perhaps we are evermore aware of the true blessing of the gift of life. Perhaps, something as simple as a hug with a loved one or a conversation with a friend will be understood as deserving of thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we recognized how truly blessed we are, and chose to focus on that which binds us together rather than that which separates and tears us apart as citizens.

My wish for you is that Thanksgiving 2021 will take on more significance than usual, as we take stock of the richness of God’s blessings that are literally all around us. May the small and common blessings be magnified so that we see with renewed vision the beauty of our surroundings, experiences, relationships and opportunities.

The joy is in the journey, if only we simply open our eyes and see. With anticipation and thanksgiving, the journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College