Giving thanks in the middle of a year many would rather forget

Note: This column appears in the November 2020 issue of Great Seal Living

It might seem challenging to think of anything to give thanks for in a year, such as 2020.

But it might be more important than ever to be thankful for what we have in a year that has featured all the earthshaking events we’ve endured this year.

Indeed, we all get it – we know what’s happened this year, from the emergence of COVID-19 and all its impact in our world to another divisive election – but as we gather (maybe?) at Thanksgiving for reflection, family, and … planning for better days ahead.

But, before I get into what’s ahead, let’s spend some time looking back for a bit. I had a recent conversation with a business owner who has lost a lot in business this year and expected a tale of woe as we spoke about the past few months.

“No one realizes it yet, but this is the best year of all of our lives,” he said.

I know what he means because I’ve been feeling this too. During the work from home, my daily life was marked by a concern for our businesses and their futures, but once I put the daily tasks away, I found great solace in the family time I was piling up.

I don’t mean to minimize the financial impact on our businesses, families, and every facet of Ross County, but we’ve learned so much about our community, each other, and our friends and neighbors in 2020.

Many of us found that the good of the community is rising on our priority lists. It was difficult for many to tune out the hardship and not react. I know of several people who regularly bought carryout food or shopped online for items they would typically purchase at a big box store because it was necessary to buy local during a tough time. Watching people come together to help kids learn online and still have something to eat became a community issue, not just someone else’s problem.

Being a vision of hope became important, too. From the lighting of the Carlisle star and the t-shirts that embodied the spirit of togetherness, we learned that we need to pick each other up sometimes, and, in turn, get picked up when we are down.

Leading by example became of paramount importance. We’d never been in a year quite like 2020, so letting people see our humanity – the worry about paying bills and keep the business afloat, the uncertainty of an illness we knew little about, and more – became the norm, rather than the exception. It was OK not to have all the answers for once. It was OK not to be OK.

Staying home created some anxious moments, but we found that we enjoyed it more than we maybe thought. Sure, it was hard to work from home when Dad was just a yell away, but the work still got done, and everyone learned to love a Zoom interruption now and again.

My family created a Question of the Night that we discussed over dinner (example: If you could be any fruit, which one would you be?). Every Friday night became Pizza and a Movie, usually featuring a 90s classic handpicked by my wife. Those new traditions still stand today.

I couldn’t go to the gym but found a new passion – walking the streets of our town. From the long walk up to Grandview Cemetery to the windy expanse of the far east of the flood wall to figure out the sidewalks end on Chillicothe’s far west side, it was exercise, but it was a trip of discovery too.

In all, we had to embrace the idea of being present, and when we did, it wasn’t that bad. We embraced it and missed it a little when we went back to our offices, job sites, stores, and restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m as happy to see 2020 pass into history. The promise of a new year brings hope that all things can soon be routine. But we have a business to conduct first, and it’s important to finish strong.

I hope we don’t forget the lessons we learned this year. They have so much to teach us, and we’re still learning from them.

Mike Throne is the President and CEO of the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce. Reach out to him at