Despite an awful 2020, I am thankful

in Contributors/Terry Manning/Voices by

By Terry Manning

As we near the close of a year so many will be glad to see leave because of the things — and people — they lost, I can look back and still find a few things for which to be thankful.

I am thankful to be alive.

I fell ill in March of this year, just after the school where I am employed declared it was halting in-person instruction. I guess being a firstborn made it easier to enjoy the first little while of solitude, but nothing eased the challenge of being sick with no one I could call.

By that point, the symptoms of coronavirus were familiar, and I knew my brother and mother would have traveled to check on my condition, endangering their own well-being. When I hear people compare the virus to the seasonal flu, I think to myself, “I’ve had the flu and it never motivated me to draw up a last will and testament as I did while I recovered.”

I did not die, obviously, but I now rank among the thousands described as “long haulers,” who continue to experience symptoms that bring back fresh memories of the illness we suffered.

But I am still here, and for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for the young people who graduated from high school and college this year in the midst of a pandemic that cost them the fullness of the celebrations they earned for their accomplishments. They deserved so much more than the virtual commencement exercises offered as replacement for live ceremonies.

For the few who got to participate in live events, whether timely or delayed by several months, I regret the half-empty venues that greeted them. I regret the challenges they face as they enter “the real world” (as if living during a pandemic isn’t “real” enough by itself). But they generally displayed an admirable sense of understanding and a durable joyfulness as they marked their transitions from one life phase to the next.

These young people have been inspiring to this old curmudgeon-in training, and for that I am thankful. 

I am thankful for the athletes who have put their health and lives on the line for our entertainment. I would not call anyone cynical who ascribed the motives of the sports leagues for which these physical marvels perform as being less than noble, but my kudos extend to the gladiators themselves. And gladiators they are, performing in “bubbles” or near-empty arenas without the rush of adrenaline that comes from boisterous fans.

I feel awful about the seniors whose final seasons were lost when their sports were canceled entirely or whose sports were eliminated. I feel worse for those who have joined the ranks of us “long haulers.”

Those who decided to pass on playing this year for their health’s sake or the sake of loved ones in their family circles are to be admired, but those who opted to play have my appreciation for the distraction.

I’m thankful to live in a democracy that can withstand efforts to subvert the will of its people. I’m thankful for televised women’s golf. For masks and gloves. For FaceTime and text messages. For social media platforms, though I wish they would get their act together on helping fight the spread of inaccurate information. For finally finding a decent peanut butter cookie recipe along with the willpower to not overuse it.

I’m thankful for the promise of a new year. I’m sure it will bears its own set of ups and downs, but hopefully — prayerfully — nothing like the pandemic and political shenanigans that made this one so memorable.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.