Christmas trees started popping up in homes across the country in early November – at least that’s when I first saw them – their full regalia gleaming and sparkling with all manner of fancy ornaments and lights, and that’s just fine with me. I love Christmas trees.

And I certainly understand that this year, we “need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” An early Christmas might remind us that this amazingly convoluted year is nearly over. And hallelujah for that!

As we drag (or slink, slide, mosey or wander aimlessly) into the ninth month of pandemic frustration, alteration and reorganization of our collective reality, I’d guess most of us are ready to just get the year over with.

But before we put the champagne on ice and dig out the noisemakers, let’s not forget Thanksgiving.

Some among us have lost their health, some have lost family members, some have lost jobs. And if we haven’t been sick, or lost loved ones or a job, some of us fear that we might.

I’d hazard a guess that 2020 hasn’t been your best year ever.

So, at this time of Thanksgiving, what DO we have to be thankful for?

At the top of many lists are still found the common elements of family, food and shelter. Certainly, those who are blessed with those things are thankful for them – and should be year-round, especially this year.

Here are some other thoughts:

We can be thankful for local leaders who have worked to keep things together in the face of this crazy irregularity. A top of mind leader for me is our Beaufort County public school superintendent, Frank Rodriguez, who, from the moment schools were closed, got busy implementing plans for his thousands of students.

Technology was adapted, lesson plans and workbooks were created and distributed, and a plan was devised and executed to continue to provide breakfast and lunch for those students who depend on meals at school. The very buses that previously took children from home to school and back were put into service as big yellow food trucks.

And the teachers – God bless the teachers! We should continue to show gratitude for these professionals who faced every hurdle with determination and concern for their students, even when things went a little haywire.

We can be thankful for the many nonprofit organizations and faith communities who sprang to action to care for those in need. Free food banks were expanded to serve more folks. Food was delivered to those in quarantine.

We can be thankful for any volunteer who saw a need and addressed it without a second thought. For instance, early in the pandemic, as restaurants shut down, many of those owners used the food they had on hand to serve essential workers free of charge.

Speaking of essential workers, let’s take a moment to appreciate those we don’t often consider so high up on the “important” scale. I’m grateful for grocery clerks, gas station attendants, delivery service drivers, postal employees and other unsung heroes who kept the wheels turning.

We can be thankful for the heroes of the season: our healthcare workers. Daily – and sometimes all day – they continued doing their jobs of caring for the sick, putting in more hours for the same pay, and taking the chances of exposing themselves to the little-known virus that kept spreading.

Let’s all take a moment this Thanksgiving season to count our blessings and express our gratitude like never before, for those who stepped up like never before.