U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

It’s been a tough year for pretty much everybody. The global pandemic has changed our lives in ways we could not have imagined last Thanksgiving, and our celebrations may look a little different this year.

Tough times can be, well, tough. We have strains and worries this Thanksgiving that we did not have in years past. But tough times can also highlight blessings. They can throw into sharp relief the things that we do have, some of which we might not ordinarily remember to be grateful for.

In America we’re used to abundance, and sometimes it can be easy to take that abundance for granted. Things like full grocery store shelves. An endless choice of paper towel brands and toilet paper. Whole aisles full of cereal.

But during the early days of the pandemic, as supply chains were disrupted and store shelves emptied, we started to be grateful for what we could find at the grocery store … even if it wasn’t our preferred brand. We also gained a new appreciation for grocery store workers, truck drivers, food supply workers, and farmers and ranchers – the individuals who are responsible for all that food making it onto store shelves.

Then there were all the other essential workers whose jobs we don’t always think about, but whose contributions have been brought into focus by the pandemic. The delivery drivers who make sure we get our packages of essential items. The people who clean our hospitals and office buildings. The medical researchers who work year in and year out to deliver new treatments and cures for diseases, and who are working right now to find ways to treat and cure COVID – with two promising vaccines on the horizon. And of course, the heroic doctors and nurses who are directly confronting this pandemic and who are doing their jobs under conditions of extreme stress.

This year and every year, we have cause to be grateful for our country, and the people who defend it. The police officers who protect our streets 365 days a year, pandemic or no pandemic, no matter what the challenges. And the men and women of the United States military, who stand watch around the world so that we can live in peace and freedom.

Our nation is not perfect of course, and we haven’t always gotten it right. But we never stop trying. We enjoy tremendous blessings in this country – blessings that we should not take for granted. And I’m grateful every day to be a citizen of this great country.

Of course, I can’t mention Thanksgiving without thinking about how blessed I am to call South Dakota home. I am thankful for the beauty of our state – for our wide-open spaces, rolling prairies, soaring hills – and I am thankful for the kindness, graciousness, and resilience that characterize South Dakota communities. It is an honor to represent South Dakotans in the United States Senate.

As we remember our abundance this year despite the challenges we’ve faced, let’s remember those whose lives have been truly overturned by this pandemic – who have lost loved ones or income or their livelihoods. And let’s remember to give out of our blessings. Food banks around the country are in need of donations, and there’s no better way to have a happy Thanksgiving than to share what we’ve been given with those who have less.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In all circumstances, even pandemics, there is reason to give thanks. I pray that every American has a happy Thanksgiving filled with blessings. And I thank God for the privilege of living in the United States of America.

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