Happy Thanksgiving! I imagine, at some point today, each of us will take a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for this year. Afterall, what better day than Thanksgiving — when we gather around a table for a specially-prepared meal with loved ones — to have this kind of introspection? Whether we recognize the things we are grateful for around that table, writing in our journals or in a social media daily countdown, it is certainly the holiday season to be thankful. 

But is Thanksgiving 2020 different? It seemed like every corner we turned there was another setback, disappointment, or negativity that surrounded us.  

When I reflect back on the year, I remember the Black Lives Matter movement divided our country, only to be further fractionated by a controversial presidential election. These national issues were felt here in Owensboro, Kentucky (my hometown), which was already divided after local officials struck down a fairness ordinance. But perhaps the most difficult challenge we faced this year was COVID-19. Wearing masks, basic household supply shortages and canceled events are our new normal. A new era of virtual education has students, teachers and parents missing the classroom. And so many have lost jobs, and worse, lives, due to this virus.

All of these things are very real, very important events that shaped 2020, but when reflecting on the beginning of this new decade, I challenge you to think deeper. What if we found the purpose or greater meaning behind the Black Lives Matter Movement first, rather than the riots and fear? What if we were grateful for our right to vote and honoring our neighbor’s right to vote first, before anger sets in when our candidate doesn’t win? What if COVID served as a reset for your family to spend quality time together? Recognize the simplest of blessings in your life and start to shift your mindset towards gratitude in a year that has left many in a dark place. We have control to change the narrative. 

If you have followed my column or my blog, you know that I am an avid reader. The current book I am working on is “Pivot and Go” by David Nurse. He describes how we each have a superpower, which we all take for granted — the power of choice. We choose our mindset. Life gives us undesired outcomes — your candidate lost the election, COVID-19 has disrupted the life you wanted in 2020. Those outcomes have the ability to rock us to the core making it difficult to tackle the next day. My takeaway from Nurse was that I have the ability to make mindful mindset pivots that allow me to shift my perspective.

While this is true of the big things, it can also apply to the smaller things we face each day. I think the majority of our society lives in the moment of reaction. One bad driver on our way to work can determine the rest of our day. A negative comment on a social media post can set you into a downward spiral. What if we flipped the narrative of those two situations into positives? Instead of focusing on that bad driver, focus on a conversation with your child in the back seat or use the quiet time in the car to pray or reflect. A negative comment on Instagram may challenge you instead to reflect on the role of social media in your life or ways to demonstrate positivity in your online and real life.

As a service provider to those with intellectual disabilities, I see the trajectory of people’s lives changed when they receive their child’s diagnosis. Just like an event in 2020 can define the whole year, a child’s diagnosis can alter the life a family imagines. But what I have seen time and time again is the resiliency of these parents. They fight for their children’s rights, ensure they have the best medical care, give them every opportunity available to them or create the opportunity when it’s not. Parents of children with disabilities receive devastating news, but instead of living in the negativity of that diagnosis, they pivot. They research, network and seek out resources to ultimately understand that their child can and will live a happy, fulfilled life, just a little different than they thought before the diagnosis. These parents — including my own mother — model for us the way we should adapt to the curve balls our own lives deliver.  

Are you recognizing the blessings that surround you each day? Take a moment, not just today on Thanksgiving, but every day to show gratitude. Our journey in life should be about finding purpose and being in control of the choices we make. Are you ready? Start today. Your choice is your superpower for change.

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