Even in this strange and difficult year, we are about to enter the season of appreciation. With Thanksgiving around the corner, we join all Eastern Iowans in giving thanks for all that we are blessed with. Yet we know that for so many this year there has been much hardship, heartbreak, stress, anxiety, sickness and loss. We have endured a bitter and divisive election season. We have had to take a hard look at the realities of racial injustice in our own communities. A summer storm caused incalculable damage that many are still working to recover from. All of this while still contending with a global pandemic where the numbers in our area have climbed again to some of the worst in the nation.
Our schools are being forced to go online, further exacerbating the impacts of income inequality on our learners, which will undoubtedly create lasting damage to their futures. Many of our small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, while others have not survived. Many people are working fewer hours or are unemployed because of businesses closing. Parents are juggling the demands of providing for their families and managing childcare and educational duties. Worst of all, 34 Johnson County families and nearly 1900 Iowa families as of this writing, will celebrate these holidays without one member of their family, because of our collective inability to stop the spread of this virus.
So, it is hard to find our thanks this year, but we must. We can be thankful that we live in an area that seeks to truly improve on social justice. We can be thankful that we live in an area which does understand the need to shop local and support each other and our economy as best as they can. We can be thankful we live in an area that came together and mobilized aid and helped our neighbors after the derecho. We can be thankful that we have educators who are rolling with the punches and doing all they can day after day to support our children. We can be thankful that we have some of the best healthcare in the nation, or those numbers above might be much higher. We can be thankful for our nurses, doctors, specialists, and support staff who show up every day to keep fighting not just the virus, but all of the other ailments, injuries and diseases they encounter, ultimately putting themselves and their families at risk.
So, we urge everyone who reads this to come together and join in this appreciation. Put politics and misinformation aside and unite in how we truly support our healthcare workers, educators, and the essential workers and people working to keep our economy going, while providing for their families in this difficult time. We can show this united appreciation in the decisions we must all make right now.
Please wear your mask anytime you must be in an indoor setting other than your home. Order food to go, do not gather in the breakroom at work to chat and eat with your coworkers, don’t host football watch parties and yes, don’t gather this Thanksgiving with those who don’t live with you. It is these social gatherings that are credited with causing the spread of the virus.
We all want to see our friends and family. We are all tired of this virus and what it has done to our sense of ‘normal’. If you are reading this, the fight is not yet over. This Thanksgiving must look different, because the virus doesn’t care who it affects, or what your opinion of it is. The only way we bring the infection numbers down and stop the spread is by uniting to defeat this with every choice we make.
Be creative and compassionate in how we celebrate this year. Bundle up and find ways to get outside and enjoy the many trails, parks and recreational options available to stay healthy and active. Be a bridge to those in your neighborhood and networks who may be struggling with loneliness and isolation; give them a call, jump on a zoom, put a lawn chair in their yard and have a distanced chat. Have food delivered to them from one of our many marvelous restaurants or donate to a local nonprofit in their name. There are many ways to spread holiday cheer and make connections that do not involve gathering indoors. Let us challenge each other to find those ways and be the light spreading across our communities in this time of great need and purpose.
Project Better Together Team