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Soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Perhaps your table is smaller this year due to COVID or other life challenges. Maybe your turkey is not as big — and Aunt Josephina is not up to making lasagna as an appetizer. (If you are of Italian heritage, you know what I mean.) However, the significance remains the same: We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. Yup, you read correctly: in all circumstances.

Unless you are living on another planet, this has been one helluva year. Mercifully, we are almost through it. We’ve endured more than the usual madness and mud-slinging during this election cycle. It has gotten so messy that combining Super Tide and Clorox might not eradicate the stain of intolerance.

We the people had our own melee of mud-slinging, verbal abuses and unfriending folks who disagree with us. Tragically, differing views caused schisms between family members. Folks, we got ugly.

With the election behind us, can we move forward? Whether the candidate you held near and dear to your heart won or lost, can we accept the outcome with grace? Acceptance and grace, my friends, is likened to a cool drink of water on a scorching summer day.

That said, we are still living under the threat of COVID. Some of us have lost friends and loved-ones to this disease. Or perhaps your loved one died from other causes. Folks, all the turkey with trimmings and wine we consume on Thanksgiving day will not fill the empty chair nor the emptiness in our hearts. Trust me, I know.

But wait…even if our hearts feel tight and feeling thankful is unimaginable, we can simply give: Give kindness and adopt her twin, gentleness. Together these soul sisters can transcend the hurt in the world and create love.

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. I know, I know, over the last months the stressers of COVID and rooting for our candidate has made us see “the other” as the enemy. Not so!

Look for the good in others. Days are happier and more productive when we give someone a piece of our heart instead of a piece of our mind. I am guilty as the next. My Sicilian blood runs deep through my veins!

Sometimes we equate gentleness and kindness with being weak or naive. Being kind and gentle often requires restraint, courage, and strength. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for one another is instinctual. Current research has proven that devoting our resources to others, rather than grabbing for more , brings about lasting well-being.

Kindness and gentleness can be evidenced in all our interactions. The opportunities are there, but we gotta show up with eyes wide open rather than eyes wide shut. Everyone is carrying burdens, some heavier than others. Suffering in another can only be seen with “wide open” eyes.

Being kind can be a small thing that produces life-affirming results: Help your neighbor. Give a random smile or compliment. Let your coveted parking space go. Send that long-overdue email or text thanking someone. Be kind to those who are unkind.

I am fortunate to belong to a church whose congregation I consider family. My gratefulness extends beyond the eight years since “sweet Frank” joined the company of heaven. When life went dark, they showed up and cast a bright light.

Kindness is a willingness to applaud another’s success. During a hard conversation try gentleness instead of shaming. In the heat of the moment it is easy to dredge up ancient history resurrecting those noisy skeletons.

Being gentle and kind with ourselves is easier said than done. Folks, I am my own worst critic. Over the years I have learned that overthinking is a trap. It keeps us in the loop of self-doubt.

Treating ourselves with gentleness and kindness can boost our immune system. Self-compassion can help us nurture others. A healthy relationship with one’s self is key to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Perhaps on Thanksgiving 2020 feeling grateful is not in the cards for some. But we can always — always — give kindness. We can dispel bluster and bombast with gentleness.

I believe we have the innate abonility to become agents of kindness, thereby shaping a more benevolent world. These words attributed to Francis of Assisi, “For it is in giving we receive” may be all the push we need. Folks, be prepared to be astonished when you discover that the receiving takes care of itself.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.