Have blessings ever been more welcome than in this dismal, disastrous year of COVID-19? Can we get up off the mat long enough this Thanksgiving week to find the many things we as villages can hold close as affirmations?

Yes we can.

At Wednesday Journal we are thankful for the glorious work of so many of our nonprofits. From shelter to nourishment, from mental health to health care, from outreach to seniors to connections with our children, we have seen repeated bold innovations as services have been delivered in new ways, with safety and caring despite the lack of human touch. From executive directors to staff to boards to funders to the beneficiaries who graciously accept help, this has been a wonder to observe.

In a time so demanding of resources to and from nonprofits we are deeply appreciative of the wide support our readers and donors have offered to Growing Community Media, our newly invented local news nonprofit.

Rising out of so much pain, we are thankful for the long-past-due revelation among white villagers of the depth of the racism built into every system we have created to shape our lives and, critically, the self-revelation that each of us carries racism and bias in our American DNA.

This is the starting point. While every protest of the early summer carried meaning, we have done nearly nothing so far. Let’s face that fact. And let’s get to work so next Thanksgiving we have made authentic headway.

Government did good in Oak Park and River Forest when it came to steering us through the frightening uncertainty of COVID-19. From Mike Charley, the now departed Oak Park public health director, who provided leadership and clarity, to village administrators Eric Palm and Cara Pavlicek, who upended organizations to offer service and find funding, to political leaders Anan Abu-Taleb and Cathy Adduci who were bold in those early confounding days.

We also saw a rare and impressive level of collaboration among all local government bodies and then we saw innovation to find ways to bring library, park and other services to residents.

The dark weeks ahead will bring more pain, but local responsive government is not to be taken for granted — or without gratitude. 

It has been imperfect because the situation is so close to impossible but thanks to our teachers, the school districts and determined parents who have invented “remote learning” on a dime and for the masses.

Widely defined, we offer thanks to essential workers from nurses to the hospital workers swabbing out ER stations, from cops and firefighters to people handling check out behind flimsy plexiglass at grocery stores and other shops.

Lake Street from Austin to Harlem has been rebuilt in a year. And now it is done, by our measure, forever.

For 40 years we have relied on and built partnerships with the small businesses of River Forest and Oak Park. They can be a delightfully squirrelly bunch in good times. And in these catastrophic times they are tough as nails, hanging on barely, but with still a little squirreliness built in.

We love these entrepreneurs. They give definition and identity to these burgs, whether they are in retail on Harrison, a second-floor dentist, an artist in a studio, a tax accountant or chiropractor downtown. They need to be intentionally supported — or, on the other end of this pandemic, we will live in diminished villages.

Our restaurants in particular have been battered by the safety precautions elemental to our public safety. We need to redouble our conscious choice to order out from these restaurants, to spread our limited disposable income, to guarantee a future for our food industry.

In this weird Thanksgiving week we look for the wonder, we hope for the future, and we give thanks for getting through this impossible year together.

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