When I was a kid, I would often hear my grandparents say, “We are grateful that things are as well with us as they are.” I didn’t fully understand or appreciate what they were saying, but as the decades have passed, I think I have a much better understanding.
For context, these words were coming from “salt of the earth,” or folks who witnessed World War I, the influenza pandemic of 1918, the crash of the stock market in 1929, followed by the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They, along with other members of the Greatest Generation, had been through a lot. In spite of these hardships, my grandparents were still grateful. Even as time passed and years of hard work had taken its toll on their bodies, they were still thankful.
Fast forward to November 2021. We too have been through some trying times. Since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in our state on March 7, 2020, our world has been turned upside-down. Approximately 760,000 Americans have died from the virus, including 10,879 Oklahomans. Thousands of jobs were lost, and inflation is now at a 30-year high. Uncertainty is the norm, and we are watching with apprehension the new COVID-19 case counts in states and countries around the globe, where cold weather has forced people back indoors. In addition, vitriolic political rhetoric at so many levels is unnerving.
Given the current state of affairs, I have had to pause and ask myself, “What is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?” Perhaps you are asking yourself the same question. I have come to the conclusion that we can control very few things right now. However, we can control our attitude. I am choosing to be thankful, and I hope you will, too.
Let me mention just a few things that I am thankful for this year. I am thankful for great health; its absence is unimaginable. I am thankful for my immediate and extended family, and I clearly understand that being a grandparent is the best gig of all. I am thankful for the blessing of working at NSU, where I am surrounded every day by upwardly mobile and exceptionally bright students. Additionally, I am thankful to work with like-minded faculty and staff who have fully embraced our mission of student success.
I am thankful that all veterans – past, present and future – take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” I am thankful that the NSU Family appreciates veterans and installed a permanent and visual reminder of said appreciation on Veterans Day.
I am thankful for Thanksgiving lunch, good friends, great memories of loved ones passed, the gift of laughter, a great public education and the good fortune of being born in the United States of America. I am thankful for freedom.
Perhaps the great philosopher Charlie Brown got it right when he asked, “What if, today, we were grateful for everything?" If you haven’t seen "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (1973), I encourage you to sit down with your family and watch it.
In spite of all the challenges we have experienced over the past 21 months, I am grateful that things are as well with us as they are. My grandparents got it, and now, so do I. Happy Thanksgiving!
Steve Turner is the president of Northeastern State University.