Thanksgiving 2020

thankful sign on wood

2020 has been a year unlike any other, except, there HAVE been years like 2020. Wait, how can that be? In reading John Barry’s, The Great Influenza, I discovered how the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 was horrific in ways unmatched since. Racial, and even political divisions, have also been greater in our history – years like 1860 and 1968, come to mind. Further, the economic recession this past Spring does not even compare to the Great Depression. While these may be considered “small wins,” in the year of 2020, they are not even that. They just simply are. And, they point to the need for a collective perspective.

Perspective is rare these days because discontentment, anger, and rage have never been more in vogue. The point of this post is not to dwell into the necessity of societal change — my position is that it is, to some degree, needed —but rather, to take a time-out from such dialogue in order to gain perspective. I submit that leaders are worth following when they get above the fray, look onto the horizon, and remind their followers not only what they (still) have, but also what they have received. With the time remaining in this post, I will do just that.

Perspective always leads to thanksgiving. For me, this is true because perspective always begins with the realization that I am not God. Therefore, all that I have is not “mine” necessarily. I did not arrange to be born into my family of origin, have the upbringing I had, nor the amazing hair genes that I have! But, I am truly thankful for all of this.

While the 18 year old version of me —dyed blond hair no less—thought to a certain extent that I was god, something transpired over the following 7 years that changed me from the inside-out. While this transformation may provoke eye-rolls, I found that doing life with Jesus has been entirely transformative for me. I am not embarrassed by that or Him, hence my inclusion here. I am so thankful I am His.

I am thankful that I met a girl named Sarah in 2005 at a church event at Joe’s Bar off North Avenue in Chicago. Marrying her continues to be the best human decision I have ever made. I am thankful she has not grown tired of me yet, especially this year when I have been extra moody on occasion. I am, and always will be, thankful for Sarah.

Will, Ben, and Sadie, are amazing blessings that continually remind me of my fallen nature. They know exactly how to push my buttons, which always reminds me how much I have to grow in terms of patience. That said, we have a lot of fun together and I could not have asked for better kids. I am thankful for them.

I spend an inordinate amount of time at work and I am thankful every Monday morning that I have a job. You might find this hard to believe, but I started 2008 unemployed as a high school substitute teacher – one course short of a Master’s degree. That humbling experience taught me to value every day that I am employed. It also taught me that my “professional why” is largely based on using the skills I have been given to ensure that people have jobs. Therefore, I am thankful for work, even when it is really hard like it has often been in 2020.

I am thankful for the 400 plus people at Hoffer Plastics that I consider my family. While 2020 has been difficult, I am continually amazed at their hard work, dedication, and willingness to show up no matter what. We never closed for COVID-19 and yes, they showed up. I will never forget walking the floor those early days of the pandemic. It was a demonstration of everyone being all-in. It is always “us,” and never “me,” here. So, I am thankful for every one of “us.”

Finally, I am writing this post in the middle part of October — long before the Presidential election has been decided. Don’t worry, I am not going to pivot politically here. But, I am going to point out how thankful I am for different perspectives, free speech, and free religion. I am at my best when my mind is open to the perspectives of people that I do not necessarily agree with, don’t share my political or religious affiliations, or sports rooting interest. In fact, I contend that to be a leader worth following deeper into the 21st century, I am going to need to grow in my ability to be more accepting of those differences. I suspect the same can be said for most leaders.

I close by citing the opening paragraph of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 “Thanksgiving Proclamation”…….

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln wrote these words towards the end of the bloodiest conflict in American History.

Perspective was as rare then as it is now.

Let us all lean-in to being thankful this holiday season, especially when it seems so difficult to do.