By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
It’s coming. The busiest travel time of the year is nearly here. Thanksgiving is next week, and we’ll be bracing for impact. Tens of millions of people will go somewhere they don’t really want to go and will do things they don’t really want to do — in some cases with people they may not even like.
Painful delays at airports, agonizing congestion on highways, bad weather, stress, and exhaustion will give a green light to viruses everywhere. Welcome to the cold and flu season. It might be prudent to rethink a few things.
Despite a strong economy, this has been a very tough year for many people. Historic flooding, catastrophic hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, and hellish wildfires have inflicted untold suffering and loss. Mass shootings, violent threats, angry mobs, and generally vicious behavior have overshadowed civility and decorum. Many decent people across the country feel overwhelmed and demoralized. I don’t think anyone needs more stress, certainly not at the Thanksgiving table.
But all is not lost. Difficult situations bring out the worst in some people but the very best in many others. Heroic acts of courage and compassion abound whenever disaster strikes. Few of us will ever have to save someone from a raging flood or fire, but we can all be a bit more thoughtful and understanding. This year, consider a few ideas that might make Thanksgiving less stressful and more pleasant for everyone:
- Don’t put pressure on loved ones to travel. People only have so much time, energy, and money to spare. Controlling relatives is not helpful here.
- Include someone who might otherwise be alone. Chances are good such folks are all around you.
- Don’t be a perfectionist in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is not a competitive event.
- Offer to help or bring a dish, but don’t force your brussels sprouts casserole on the host. Some people don’t know when to cease and desist.
- Resist the temptation to talk politics. Now is not the time to upset people.
- Put a ban on phones, television, and assorted other devices. Through your church, synagogue, or club, sponsor a Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need.
- Show interest in other people at dinner. Good conversation starts with sincere questions about the other person and really listening to that person.
- Don’t inflict yourself on others if you’re sick. Someone will almost certainly be happy to bring you some wonderful leftovers.
- Be genuinely grateful for all the blessings you do have. Let people know that you appreciate them.
Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday with charming traditions. With a little extra thoughtfulness, we can make it better than ever for everyone.