Giving thanks in a God-awful year

As published in The Providence Sunday Journal, November 15, 2020. Shown above, St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street in East Greenwich.

My dog and I have our morning routine, and in 2020, it’s the antidote to the uncertainties that COVID-19 and the presidential election have visited upon us. Well, upon me, that is. Rhody, immune to such human tribulations, wags her tail and waits patiently at the front door.

I retrieve her leash from the kitchen and resist the urge to grab my phone. I know I am just a click away from the latest warnings of the apocalypse. A prescient Jeff Tweedy lyric has been playing in my head for months: “Every generation thinks it’s the last, thinks it’s the end of the world.” Can you blame ours?

As Rhody and I set forth on our trek through the neighborhood on this particular morning, I decide to look for reasons to give thanks despite the haymakers that 2020 keeps throwing at us. Or perhaps because of them.

I’m grateful for the sweet black dog walking by my side, of course. After resisting my daughter’s persistent petitions to get a rescue pup, I finally caved one night after a couple of beers. Every day, Rhody plucks me from the depths of my ruminations and returns me to the present. My daughter chides me lovingly: “Who rescued who?”

I’m grateful for the children in my neighborhood who, throughout the pandemic, have scrawled riddles on the sidewalk with colored chalk. Rhody and I approach one now, and I read the question at my feet: “Where do you take a sick boat?” Several strides later, we get the punch line: “To the dock!” The pun, so innocent and fun, makes me chuckle.

It’s no laughing matter farther down Peirce Street, where leftover political signs still hawk candidates. Running for office would make me more squeamish than working in an emergency room, so I am grateful that both a cousin and a friend braved the fraught election season of 2020 — one Democrat, one Republican, each of them earnest, big-hearted guys. Regardless of the outcomes of their respective races — my cousin won, my friend fell short — our democracy is better for their efforts.

Rhody and I now stop at the foot of the towering steeple at St. Luke’s Church, where I am a parishioner. I am grateful for a homily delivered in October by Rector Tim Rich, in which he asked us to reflect on the familiar “love thy neighbor” commandment. It can be easy to love your neighbor, Tim asserted. But what about your enemy?

“In Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus challenging us to love our enemies, as well,” he said.

During the sermon, a commotion one block away on Main Street had filtered through the church’s open, stained glass windows: people whooping, horns blaring, motorcycles growling. I later learned that it was a Trump parade.

I’m told that a woman in the pews that day, a Biden supporter, drove down to Main Street after the service, by which time the parade had reversed itself and was heading back through town. Unable to make her turn as the boisterous partisan train passed by, the woman sat in her idling car for a minute or so, until a pickup truck slowed to let her proceed.

I wonder how that scene played out. Did the pro-Biden driver acknowledge her rival’s courtesy with a quick wave as she pulled onto Main Street? Did the Trump supporter wave back from his flag-festooned truck, unaware of the woman’s political persuasion? Would he have done the same had he known?

These questions start me down a rabbit hole about how disunited the United States has become …

And then, with an ear-flapping shake and shimmy, Rhody rescues me again, the metal tags on her collar playing their familiar jingle-jangle song.


Love it. Now, more than any time in the past, seems to be a time to simply live in the present…. to do the right thing even when no one is looking…. to just ‘let it be’. I suspect Rhody knows that too.

I live on the bike path in Coventry and my saving grace thru the first 6 months of this pandemic was my 15 year old jack Russell Abbie. We walked 3 miles most days together until she had a stroke or seizure overnight September 18th. It broke my heart to have to put this loving, loyal and fun dog down. It hasn’t been easy but Stella arrives from TX on December 5th and I know who’s rescuing who.
Thanks John

….somebody said….”try to be the person your dog thinks you are”…
Thanks for some timely perspective and reminders.

John, fantastic writing… as always! The sun rose today and it will rise tomorrow…. at times it’s obscured by dark clouds, but it’s there, the clouds will pass… so will these challenging times!


Thank you, John and Rhody, for taking me along on your morning constitutional — or as they’ve put in D.C. for nearly four years, unconstitutional.

In essays and articles published over a few decades I’ve expressed the “love your enemy” teaching in words designed to provoke self-examination under cognitive duress. I continue to await an “I’m with you” response. So here I go again:

Until the life of the terrorist is held to be as sacred as the life of the terrorized, the terror will continue.

I wish for you and yours a peaceful holiday season.

I would have controlled myself and only flipped him the bird in my mind.

Love it, great writing, John, very nicely said!

Reblogged this on by Michael Morse and commented:
My friend and fellow Providence Journal monthly contributor with another great piece.

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