If truth be told, once I grew old enough that I stopped caring about getting toys every Christmas, Thanksgiving really became my favorite holiday of the year.
While Christmas always seemed to be themed around the kids and making us happy, Thanksgiving was more about the entire family getting together and celebrating together. I even remember one year, when I was horribly sick and in bed with the flu, my mother cooked an extravagant feast for just the two of us so I could still have a little turkey and stuffing.
To this day, Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays I insist on celebrating, though it’s often just my partner and me and our fur children nowadays due to work obligations and travel.
I know the history of Thanksgiving is difficult for many. For some, it’s a reminder they may not have much of a family, biological or chosen, to celebrate with this time of year. This year, with Covid-19 forcing many to choose whether it’s worth the risk to have communal family celebrations, really highlights how the holidays can remind us of what we lack rather than what we have.
I’m not going to lecture on counting your blessings or faking it until you make it; 2020 has been a year that’s exhausted most of us on so many different fronts, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to pretend I’m not feeling similarly fatigued. You would not be wrong to be more than a bit cranky at this year’s end.
This year’s holiday season does remind me of how much we need one another. I feel very lucky this year: I have a partner who has supported me throughout this difficult year, colleagues who have cheered me on and provided feedback when needed, and a community who has risen to so many challenges this year with grace and resilience. This year, despite everything that’s happening, I feel so grateful for those who are companioning me as we figure out our new normal together.
This holiday season also reminds me, though, of how many folks in our community and our region who don’t have such support systems, who are trying to make it on their own and barely grasping on. We need one another now more than ever. I strongly believe that humans need connection to survive, and not feeling like we have anyone who understands us can make the world seem like a cruel place indeed.
I truly believe that the way to build a more just, equitable world is by building local communities that are connected, whose members take care of one another, where everyone is supported and no one is left behind. It’s easy to be distracted by national headlines, but the truth is that real change starts in the community.
My challenge this year: reach out to someone in our community who needs to know someone cares, whether it’s the shut-in next store who never gets visitors, the international student with nowhere to go for the holidays, or the single parent struggling to make ends meet. Reach out to them and let them know you care. Bring them dinner. Send them a card. Leave them a small token of kindness to let them know you care.
And don’t just make it a nice thing we do around the holidays. What would it be like if we adopted this attitude year-round? How much could we change the world just by opening the doors of our hearts for some beloved hospitality? Let Thanksgiving be a reminder, but let the rest of the year stand as an opportunity for us to create a world where everyone knows someone cares about them.
Rev. Chris Rothbauer (they/them/their) is minister of Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. A native of Southern Indiana, they live in Auburn with their partner, a senior rescue beagle, and a spoiled rotten cat. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.