Expressing gratitude is like taking deep breaths. You can get by without doing so, but boy, it’s replenishing and recentering when you follow through. In a year marked by death, fear, isolation and anger, it’s easy — it’s understandable — to get lost in the horror. To lose sight of grace.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, and as we approach the close of this cruel year, we sought to create space for thankfulness. We asked readers to share three things, big or small, for which they’re grateful. We heard from over 60 people, and the responses ranged from expected (family) to one of a kind (“Magical Morning Memos” — more on those later).

Thank you for sharing with us. We are grateful for you.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Jodie Sadowsky, 43, West Hartford, Conn.

“I’m grateful for masks which have so far kept my loved ones safe and have allowed my kids to attend the schools they love. I haven’t lost my Zoom-thusiasm over having spent what felt like intimate time with President Obama and Michael J. Fox (on their book tours), the studios of Alanis Morissette and Mo Willems (sharing their art) and the kitchens of chefs Terry Walters and Jeremy Rock-Smith (sharing their clean eating recipes). Being socially distant has made me aware of all that I hold close: my family and friends, my community, good stories and crossword puzzles. (Also I'm really mad for fleece lined leggings.)”

Danyella Wilder, 23, Riverside, Calif.

“I’m grateful for familiarity, family and, let’s be honest, all-purpose flour. Before the pandemic started, I was across the country in another city, going about life on my own for the first time. Yet despite the several circumstances that pulled me back, I’m thankful to be safe in the comfort and nostalgia that is my hometown. I get to cuddle with my dog everyday (huge plus!) and have discovered why baking might just be the superior food-art form. But most importantly, I now have the advantage to recenter my life on those who’ve always supported me: my family.”

Ann Carper, 66, Washington, D.C., and Hanover, N.H.

“I am grateful that my breast cancer experience (diagnosis in July, lumpectomies in each breast in August, radiation therapy that ended earlier this month) was positive on the whole. I had good health insurance, doctors who were on top of things, clean margins after surgery, no chemo necessary and no major side effects from radiation therapy. On the nonmedical side, I am grateful for having a supportive partner (who had breast cancer twice herself), two nice places to live while going through this, a car, being retired, and having no children to care for or worry about. It could have been so much worse.”

Debbie Markel, 67, Richmond, Va.

“As a middle-class older White woman, I am grateful to my Black sisters who have helped me understand White privilege and its impact on my life up until now. Because of them, I’m learning how to be an active advocate for equal justice instead of merely being on the sidelines as a cheerleader. I am also grateful that out of our collective fear that American democracy is quickly being eroded, people are mobilizing for political action and participating in the democratic process in greater numbers than I can ever remember. And finally, I am grateful for the unprecedented outpouring of generosity toward so many people having financial and health troubles right now. This giving spirit has inspired me to do more for others, too.”

Jennifer Nakasato, 41, Falls Church, Va.

“I’m grateful that I was able to safely deliver my child via emergency C-section at 36 weeks after a placental abruption in April, that my husband has been able to work from home allowing us to keep our family safe, and that we have been able to stay with my parents giving us the much-needed help and support during these intensive months.”

Alyson Malinger, 25, Washington, D.C.

“I am grateful to meet expectations. I recently filled out a self-evaluation for work on my performance over the past year, and meeting expectations is far more than I thought I could reach at the start of this nightmare. I have had family members die alone, many friends lose jobs and have spent countless hours crying as cases continue to rise and people don't bother to wear a mask. I am grateful to breathe on my own, to still have a job and to have next Thanksgiving to look forward to when I may be able to see my family again.”

Jasmine Soufer, 27, Los Angeles

“I am grateful for the chance I have given myself to heal from a traumatic relationship, for refraining from my impulses to run back to that which harms me, for opening my mind to the concept that I can be whole and fulfilled without being in love or in a relationship. I am proud of myself for never harming myself when I slip into my lowest lows, for always reaching out for support when my instinct is to slip into the darkness alone.”

Beth Glosten, 63, Seattle

“I am grateful that I am quite healthy and can get outside to walk, hike or bike. The out-of-doors helps my state of mind. I am grateful that I enjoy cooking, even just for myself (I am single and live alone). I can spend an afternoon in the kitchen and enjoy it — it is not a chore. Finally, I am grateful for the company of my two very friendly cats. They embody unconditional love.”

Roberta Mueller, 71, Ballwin, Mo.

“I’m grateful that my spouse and I actually like each other, thereby making stay-home recommendations easily doable. I’m grateful that the senior retirement facilities where I entertain musically (pre-pandemic) are keeping their residents safe and engaged with a steady stream of different activities. Activity directors are saints! I’m grateful for postal carriers, retail workers and medical personnel who continue to report to work and do their jobs in the face of peril.”

Kelsey Zdebski, 27, San Francisco

“I am extremely grateful to live in California. I am grateful for the moderate weather and being able to walk to the ocean. The beach — the sand, the sound of the waves — is truly healing. I am grateful for a text group with two friends called ‘Magical Morning Memos’; every morning, we record a voice memo to send to each other where we say three things we are grateful for and manifest what we would like in our future.”

Haley Zapal, 37, Atlanta

“For those lucky enough to be blessed with the hallmarks of true luck, there’s the holy trinity of having shelter, having one’s health and having a job still. I’m one of these lucky ones, so instead, I wanted to list three other things that have made me count my blessings this year. One, my still-producing pepper plants that enable me to take pleasure in the outside world right now, as I venture to my garden, harvest them and then make a scorching ghost pepper hot sauce. Two, my science-fiction podcast that I started with best friends a few years ago. Three, my 12-year-old orange cat, Wilma, who I’ve spent more time with the past eight months than I ever thought possible.”

Jan Sparks, 66, Wills Point, Tex.

“I am battling Stage 4 lung cancer. I’m incredibly grateful for my three grandboys! All three were born between October and December 2019. Their presence has allowed me to focus on something other than myself.”

Emma Chavez, 43, Los Angeles

“I am most grateful for discovering how patient and resilient I can be under the pressure of home schooling an 11-year-old while working from home and keeping us both healthy as a single mother. I’m thankful for still being employed. I’m thankful for friends and family whom I can’t wait to hug when this pandemic is over.”

Elizabeth Niarchos Neukirch, 36, Chicago

“My husband and I spent most of our first year married in isolation. I am grateful we were able to have our wedding safely before the pandemic began, but also grateful for all the unexpected extra time at home together this year, which has only strengthened our partnership, friendship and board game rivalry. I am grateful my parents survived covid-19, and that my father (a pharmacist) and so many others in the medical field are willing to risk their lives daily to continue treating patients. And I am grateful that the forced cancellation of my entire social calendar has enabled me to hunker down and write more than half of a novel I’ve been meaning to write for a decade.”

Elsie Gilmore, 47, St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I am grateful that I have not yet run out of money, despite my business being way down due to coronavirus. I did well last year and put away six months of expenses, but I hope I don’t need to eat all that away because then I will again be without a safety net. I am grateful for friends who have already offered to loan me money or invest in a new venture I’m considering. I am grateful that my connections and community wrap me in a protective layer that many people don’t have.”

Kellyn Morton, 19, Missoula, Mont.

“Right now, I’m most grateful for my professors. They are working just as hard as the students out there and should be credited for their persistence. I’m also grateful for my co-workers, who manage to always make me laugh at our near-high-risk job surrounded by our customers who don’t like to wear their masks. And I’m grateful for my apartment; it has become my safe space and I know that many people would be happy to have a place like mine.”

Laura Parkes, 41, Nevada City, Calif.

“First, I am grateful for my daughter, my partner, friends and family. Second, I am grateful for my vegetable garden, and that it — and our home — survived the summer’s wildfires. Third, I am grateful that the rains have come. And, to sneak in one extra, I am grateful for the coastal redwoods, whose magnificence always leave me with a sense of awe and wonder.”

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