It goes without saying this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will be unlike any other Manitobans have ever experienced.
In those heady pre-pandemic times, Thanksgiving activities have typically involved overeating, watching televised football games, and perhaps arguing politics with a distant relative they might only see once a year.
This year, however, with COVID-19 cases and deaths rising and pandemic restrictions raised to the Code Orange level, Manitobans have a unique opportunity to remember why this holiday was first created — to give thanks.
Because what doesn’t go without saying — as Manitobans hopefully heed public-health orders and sit down with far fewer people around the dinner table — is that we just might have even more to be thankful for now than before "social distancing," "flattening the curve," and "community transmission" became part of our vocabulary.
Manitobans have a unique opportunity to remember why this holiday was first created ‐ to give thanks.
Since this invisible enemy breached Manitoba’s borders seven months ago, people throughout the province have been openly showing their gratitude for the courage and dedication of health-care workers, men and women who have stood on the front lines even when many were not armed with the protective gear required for their own safety.
In raising our glasses to them, however, we might also express heartfelt gratitude for the growing army of unsung heroes, ordinary Manitobans who have made extraordinary efforts to help others under very challenging circumstances.
Whether your scaled-down, physically-distanced "feast" is a turkey or just a can of soup, consider taking a moment to give thanks for the police officers, social workers, long-haul truckers, grocery store clerks, teachers, volunteers and thousands of other Manitobans whose jobs and kind hearts don’t allow them to hide from the coronavirus by hunkering down at home.
Give thanks for humanitarian organizations such as Winnipeg’s Siloam Mission which, unable to provide its normal in-person Thanksgiving dinner, is instead preparing to serve more than 300 turkey dinners to go. Those meals are only possible thanks to the generous donation of special takeout containers capable of handling heaping helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes.
Consider, as well, the legions of Manitoba businesses that, despite being mired in the unprecedented economic fallout of a global pandemic, have pivoted from normal product lines to churn out newly urgent items such as hand sanitizer and desperately needed protective gear to safeguard front-line workers.
Just one example would be Winnipeg’s Acryl Design, where workers are using their skills and special machinery to meticulously cut large sheets of plastic to build the plexiglass barriers you see in grocery stores or at the offices of doctors and dentists.
It is impossible not to be inspired this holiday by the steadily growing army of citizens who have turned their sewing hobby into a huge humanitarian effort – using social media to drive their campaign — to ensure that everyone who needs or wants one can receive a homemade non-medical mask.
In a time when stress has become the new normal, Manitobans can be thankful for the musically talented residents who are organizing impromptu social-distancing singalongs and concerts from their doorsteps and apartment balconies to help beat back the coronavirus blues.
Not to mention the fact that, as many Manitobans self-isolate in their homes, they have been afforded a rare opportunity to slow down, reconnect with family and friends — frequently via Zoom calls — and renew passions for everything from gardening and baking to home renovations.
Above all, we can give thanks the human heart is a lot like the stomach after a Thanksgiving feast: when it’s full of gratitude, there’s not much room left for despair.