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For the first time in more than fifty years, my wife and I this year did not spend Thanksgiving with our parents or our children or our grandchildren. We have wonderful memories of all those past Thanksgivings, of those times with loved ones who have meant so much to us. Memories of long drives on snow-covered roads, of carefully packing our small children in the back seat where they slept blissfully over the miles, of happily overeating the abundant delicious food causing the table to groan under the weight, of falling asleep watching football games on TV, of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many others. As wonderful as Zooming is, it will never substitute for the hugs, handshakes and other personal, physical interactions with those we love.

And yet, is there not more to Thanksgiving than ample food and even family gatherings? Certainly, we are truly thankful for all that our families have sacrificed and done to shape us and make us what we are. And yet, do we not have so much more for which to be thankful? We live in the greatest nation on earth. Some maintain it is the most powerful nation on earth and that may be right in military terms. But it is definitely right in terms of the spirit, the dedication and the faith of our people. It is also right in terms of the beautiful racial, ethnic and religious mosaic that defines America. We do not have to gather together in the same room or the same house to appreciate what we have and what lies ahead.

Even the ravages of COVID-19 forcefully remind us of some valuable lessons and of more reasons to be thankful. We grieve deeply for more than 260,000 lives lost so far with many more to follow, yet we can be grateful for the heroism of the thousands of first responders, frontline workers and medical personnel who have so bravely stood on the ramparts to save and protect us — many making the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us might survive. Then there are the public health professionals and pharmaceutical researchers dedicating their formidable professional skills to developing strategies and medicines. They continue to work incredibly long, intensive hours on our behalf. Let us also praise the teachers, who have devoted themselves to teaching the children with new, unfamiliar techniques and technologies.

Essential workers have graphically shown why they are essential. In each of these instances, even a superficial review will disclose that prominent among those making the greatest sacrifices and the greatest contributions are so many workers and professionals reflecting the coat of many colors that is America.

The pandemic vividly reminds us that life may surely be tragic at times, but it is truly more positive and hopeful. So let us not retreat into melancholy sadness and regrets but instead be enormously thankful for all that we have, for all that these times have revealed to us about our manifold strengths as a people and for the bountiful, meaningful days awaiting us as a united, determined, confident, tolerant and diverse nation.

Aubrey King, now retired, is a Huntington resident.