Thanksgiving Blessings in a Difficult Year

Thanksgiving Blessings in a Difficult Year

What a different Thanksgiving Day this year’s will be! COVID-19 has changed everything. All of us have experienced significant losses in 2020. By now our list of losses may be longer than our list of thanks. Adding the loss of family Thanksgiving traditions during “Pause to Save Lives” piles on more grief.

This Thanksgiving is one to remember as much due to its pall of sadness as well as its strangeness.

Expressing gratitude for the giver as well as the gift.

In a strange way this year’s Thanksgiving may highlight a vital aspect of giving thanks we often take for granted. Obviously, when we say “thanks” we express joy in receiving a gift. On a deeper level, when we say “thanks” we recognize the giver. We express joy in the giver, too, and the giver returns a smile with joy in the gift of our thanks.

As a child when my parents dropped me off at a friend’s house to play, their last words were, “Don’t forget to say ‘thank-you’”. They reminded me that behind the gift is a giver. They wanted me to value the giver as well as the gift. And I did.

Our practice of social distancing during COVID-19 to care for ourselves and others has brought some difficult isolation. To varying degrees people have experienced increased loneliness, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, weariness, and despair. We need personal connection. We need relationships. We need to matter to someone and need someone to matter to us.

Thanksgiving blessings to carry throughout our lives.

This year, perhaps more so than in most, we need the personal connections with other givers that comes with giving thanks for their gifts. So, I suggest making a full day of it. Let us say, “thank you” as much as we can. Whether on a phone call, Facetime, Zoom meeting, text, e-mail, Snapchat, six feet from each other, or other ways, express your thanks to others all day. Take in the joy of mutually giving and receiving thanks—find joy in the givers as well as the gifts.

As we give thanks, we may sense in our souls that behind all our relationships is a Giver. We connect to the Source of Life, too. We may feel assured and strengthened by a relationship of love with the One “from whom all blessings flow”.

May you have a Thanksgiving Day full of connection and joy.


Rev. Karl VanHarnRev. Karl VanHarn is the Director of Pastoral Services and Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, as well as an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He worked with Pine Rest CPE from 1995 to 2004, while serving as a Chaplain at Wedgwood Christian Services. He has been an ACPE Certified Educator since 1998.

He has a B.A. in Philosophy from Calvin College, a M.Div. from Calvin Theological Seminary and a D. Min. from Western Theological Seminary.

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