Our world has changed drastically in the past two years, but in some of the most important ways it has stayed the same.

Probably none of us could’ve imagined in the winter of 2019 that colloquial seasonal greetings like “Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday” would take on such gravitational meaning. Heck, before COVID-19 swept into our lives, our biggest worries centered around safe driving to and from family gatherings.

The changes have been innumerable and, many, dramatic. Travel, food, health, politics — all have become more difficult and complex to navigate.

Our gatherings are smaller. Our emotional baggage heavier.

Last Thanksgiving, many of us struggled through responsibly distant or constrained gatherings — substituting video feeds for hugs. This year, many face similar decisions now complicated by time and distance.

Today, we cradle our most vulnerable loved ones against the pandemic disease that seems to have developed endless waves. We guard them against infection with carefully constructed fences of vaccines, masks and tests — the only tools we have to shepherd them safely through this wave and the next.

Yet, all the important things, the things we once probably took for granted, are the same. All the things we cherish about the holidays hold fast. The warmth of friends and neighbors. The embrace of a beloved family member. The generosity of our community.

All of those things have been adjusted to fit our pandemic-altered world, yet they continue to shine through during this season. This Thanksgiving and last we bear witness to creative, caring and adaptive people in our lives who, despite all the upheaval in our world, deliver the coziness we all could use at this moment.

The list of people for whom we are thankful this year is innumerable. But we are especially grateful for the health care workers and public health officials who will spend yet another holiday fighting a pandemic surge on our behalf. Many of them will work through the holiday weekend knowing the worst of this latest spike is ahead.

This year especially, we wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

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