For the past few months, my daughter, niece, and I have sat down to dinner and asked each other, “What one thing are you grateful for today?” This simple practice has attuned us to the ordinary gifts of daily life. It has buoyed our spirits and connected us to each other and God, from whom all good gifts come. Practicing gratitude in this way has been an intentional choice—not always easy or natural but consistently lifegiving.
Thanksgiving is five days away, and this holiday will be different than any other, limited in ways we would not choose and eliciting new grief. We will be sequestered from some, if not many, of the ones we love most. As one of my colleagues quipped, “Our typical Thanksgiving of twenty now will be a Thanksgiving of four. It’s so disorienting and heartbreaking given how much time we have been apart this year.”
We may be physically separated on Thanksgiving in ways unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Yet we also are spiritually together in ways that can strengthen our communal bonds over the long haul. We live in solidarity with each other when we accept the guidance of epidemiologists and abide by the mandates issued by governors. We honor (and thank) doctors, nurses, and medical technicians when we do our part to keep our health care systems stable. In short, we choose to love our neighbors near and far.
Leaning into (rather than resisting) these limitations contributes to our collective health and safety. Remembering this might make the sacrifice of holiday traditions more bearable. This, of course, doesn’t negate our genuine sadness. But it does envelop our grief in a larger umbrella of collective care. These choices—big or small—are meaningful. And, for each choice each one of us makes to care for all of us, we can be grateful.
Mount Olivet Conference & Retreats joins this collective web of acceptance, care, and gratitude. Recognizing the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 and following the MN Governor’s Executive Order 20-99, we are limiting our residential programming and events to private retreats and outdoor recreation. This began on November 20, 2020 and will continue for one month or until new guidelines are issued. Specifically, we are welcoming private overnight and day retreats for people in the same household. Full dining service will be provided and meals will be delivered to your own room. The pool, whirlpool, and sauna are closed but the retreat center grounds and outdoor amenities are open for your enjoyment and relaxation. You can read more about our commitments here.
Gratitude is the essence of this week’s holiday—the whole point actually. Here at the retreat center, we are grateful for the many gifts we have received and are still able to share. We are thankful to volunteers who, three weeks ago, socially distanced, wore masks, and tended our grounds. We are thankful to donors whose financial gifts have enabled us to buy new audio-visual equipment and start on a website redesign and thereby extend our ministry of our hospitality in the midst of this pandemic. We are thankful to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church pastors and staff who join us in offering traditional programs in new forms. We are thankful to readers here on Retreat Where You Are for their support and affirmation. Mostly, we are thankful to be in this together even as we apart. We hope new practices of gratitude and creative ways of sustaining connection will buoy you up this Thanksgiving as well.
This week’s inspirational post, Thanksgiving 2020: Held Together by Grief and Gratitude, written by Theresa, is featured on the Church Anew blog. Church Anew is an ecumenical ministry dedicated to equipping church leaders to face the adaptive changes needed for ministry today and tomorrow and its blog provides brief moments of encouragement and spiritual reflections for readers nationally from all 50 states and internationally from more than 85 countries.
Read Theresa’s blog post here.
*Theresa F. Latini, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA)