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Stories from the valley

Staying Thankful

Contributed by Dan Macon

Thanksgiving, I think, is my favorite holiday. For my family, it’s usually a quiet day of cooking, laughing, and eating together – punctuated on either side by our everyday animal chores. For me, it’s a day to take stock of all the things I’m thankful for. But this year seems different in so many ways. This year, staying thankful seems especially important.

Usually, I start my Thanksgiving like I start most of my days – taking care of sheep. A day or two before the holiday, we’ll move the sheep onto fresh feed, so that our Thanksgiving morning chores are simplified – feeding livestock guardian dogs, checking the sheep, and filling water troughs. While these jobs are typical of the daily work of any shepherd, they always have a different significance on Thanksgiving – I’m conscious of how fortunate I am to work with livestock, outdoors, in a community that values food and fiber production.

persimmons on tree branch

This year, obviously, is so very different. Many of us won’t get to be with our extended families. We’ve lived through multiple crises in 2020 – drought, wildfire, pandemic, extreme political dissension, to name a few. Despite these challenges, I still feel a sense of thankfulness. I’m thankful for the food we’ll put on our table (some of which we raised). I’m thankful that our fall rains have finally arrived. I’m thankful that my family is safe and healthy – even though we’re not all together this year. I’m thankful that my own daily work involves working with nature to produce even a little bit of food and fiber that extends beyond my own family’s needs.

tree with fallen leaves

Before I leave the house each morning, I try to catch up on the news and the weather. Last week, I read a great story on the NPR website about a vacuum repairman in Massachusetts who has fixed Thanksgiving dinner for strangers in his community for the last 35 years. With coronavirus surging again, Scott Macaulay is taking a different approach this year – but what really struck me about his story was this simple statement, “My philosophy is: I can’t fix the country or the world or even the town, but I can brighten my own corner.” This has stayed with me in the week since I read it. I’m thankful, this year especially, for the people in my community who brighten their own corners. I aspire to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving!