Responding to

"If you have a family that loves you, a few good friends,
food on your table, and a roof over your head,
you are richer than you think." 

This is going to be one strange Thanksgiving week. Nothing is going to feel quite right.

Nevertheless, it'll be OK.

Even with the limits on gatherings, all the changes in our holiday plans, the many restrictions on what we can do as a result of the pandemic, and the state's latest lockdown, most of us have a lot to be grateful for. So, taking a few minutes to acknowledge that, at least this week, is appropriate. And not surprisingly, feeling grateful can be good for our health. In fact, expressing gratitude can reduce stress, increase optimism, and change our brains . . . in good ways.

Back in January, this article in Positive Psychology offered some thoughts on the health benefits of practicing gratitude. It came out before the pandemic but the information seems especially useful today. According to the research it cites, if we do only one thing to improve our health and happiness, expressing gratitude might be the thing. Evidently, each time we express or receive gratitude, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and it's produced in two areas of the brain. One area involves movement and speech. The other involves reward. The link between expressing gratitude and the release of dopamine creates a connection between the behavior and feeling good. Consequently, the more we practice gratitude, the more often dopamine is released in our brain and the better we feel. Basically, it's making us high.

What does "practicing gratitude" look like? It can be something as simple as asking ourselves what we're thankful for, as many of us already do at the Thanksgiving table. It can also involve reflecting on a past challenge that we got through and giving ourselves credit for what we accomplished. And it can simply be saying thank you to someone. It doesn't have to be big but it needs to be genuine. It also needs to occur regularly.

A number of positive psychology experts recommend writing regularly in a "gratitude journal." Since I'm not much of a journal writer, this suggestion doesn't really appeal to me. I'm also not a particularly "touchy-feely" person so the idea of a "gratitude practice," a routine that involves setting aside time each day and meditating on feelings of gratefulness, also doesn't really appeal to me. If it's forced, it won't help.

But the idea of taking a moment on a regular basis to reflect on what's good in my world may help offset the often mind-numbing barrage of madness and mayhem we're all living through. It may also allow me to feel a little better about things. Maybe that's my "gratitude practice."
And the news isn't all bad.

In addition to the two vaccines that are on the verge of readiness for FDA review, new research seems to indicate that immunity to the coronavirus may last for many years. Although the findings are preliminary and the research hasn't been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, it's the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of coronavirus immunity to date. The finding is also consistent with SARS survivors continuing to have important immune cells 17 years after recovering (remember that SARS is caused by a similar coronavirus) . So, both infection with the novel coronavirus and vaccination against the virus appear likely to convey useful immunity.

Last week, the FDA approved the first low-cost and complete in-home rapid coronavirus test kit. The test requires a prescription from a health care provider and can return results in about half an hour. “Today’s authorization for a complete at-home test is a significant step forward in the FDA’s nationwide response to COVID-19,” Jeff Shuren, Director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said. “Now, more Americans who may have COVID-19 will be able to take immediate action, based on their results, to protect themselves and those around them.” It's not one hundred percent, but it's another tool.

These events reassure me that, little by little, things will improve. We'll get through the rest of 2020 and we'll honor and celebrate Thanksgiving, and Chanukah, and Christmas, and New Year's Eve, and all the other holidays and milestones that come along. Many of us will have virtual holiday gatherings. Some of us will have quiet celebrations with only household members. And very likely, others of us will gather together as in years past, regardless of the potential risks.

As we consider our options for how we celebrate this Thanksgiving, we all have choices to make - about what we do, how we do it, and how we feel about our circumstances. Some folks I've talked to are a bit sad that they can't enjoy their families' holiday traditions. Others are resentful. Most people I know are simply taking things in stride and doing what they can to create a pleasant holiday. Given that feeling grateful is a choice and given that this is as good a time as any to reflect on what I have, and not just on what I'm missing, once Kitchen Angels deliveries are done, I'll be choosing to stay home, enjoy a quiet day, and feel grateful that I have a family, a home, good health, and food on my table.

I'm also grateful for each member of the Kitchen Angels family. Thank you for doing everything you can to keep yourself and others as safe and as healthy as possible. You are each an important member of our community.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.
Our Bubbles Are Bigger Than We Think
And So Are The Risks . . .

Here's an illuminating article on what gathering for a holiday during the pandemic means. Farhad Manjoo, an opinion writer with The New York Times, was struggling with whether or not to travel with his family to spend Thanksgiving with his sister and his parents. "To find some empirical foothold in a debate mired in uncertainty, I decided to investigate my own potential lethality to the older people in my life. What I discovered floored me."

You can read what he discovered here.

Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, put the risk to Grandma in relatively graphic terms. “You’re going to say ‘Hi’ at Thanksgiving, ‘It’s so nice to see you’, and then you’re either going to be visiting her by FaceTime in the ICU or planning a small funeral by Christmas.”