What do we have to be thankful for in 2020? | by Dr. Popkin

The headline for this greeting could be the setup for a dark joke with a punchline like: We can be thankful that it’s almost over; that it wasn’t even worse; that we avoided civil war and didn’t get wiped out by murder hornets. However, I think a more optimistic headline would be to reframe the question as an emphatic statement: “What we do have to be thankful for in 2020!”

Even in this challenging year where so many were lost in tragic circumstances ranging from record setting hurricanes and fires to the pandemic of the century that continues its suffocating spread, we all have reasons to be thankful. Maybe it was an act of kindness or a piece of unexpected good fortune. You can fill in your own personal list as I have mine.

Or we can list all of our collective successes together. We can be thankful for what we have learned, how we contributed to others, coped with hardship and crisis, found courage, persevered, and other character traits and skills in ourselves and others. We can even give a big thank-you for our very survival, because if our goal is “to survive and thrive” as we say in our Active Parenting programs, then we first have to survive.

Adversity is a powerful motivator and has the potential for making us better. As learners, human beings are pretty amazing. We learn from our mistakes as well as our successes. We up our game in the struggle to solve problems. We recognize that none of us is as capable as all of us working cooperatively together. And if we don’t, we often learn lessons the hard way, natural consequences sometimes being the harshest of teachers.

We can be thankful for 2020 because we will need all we have learned this year to make it through 2021. We hope that spring will not only bring its annual promise of new life and warmth, but also the end of Covid19. But sometimes the miracle isn’t spring, it is making it through winter. This winter will probably test us in ways we haven’t seen. Some of us will fail to use what we have learned, get careless or tired of fighting, or just give up. Others will simply get lucky and muddle through. But come next Thanksgiving, I hope to be thankful that as a human community we survived and then thrived because we got a little smarter, sacrificed a little longer, and put our 2020 experience to good use.

So, thank you for what you did to help get us through this past year and for what you do going forward to help us make it through winter and bring about spring.


Active Parenting Publishers founder and president Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D. has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for over 35 years. He is widely known for his expertise in the field of parent education and has appeared on over 100 TV programs, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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