Vaccines, the Boston Marathon, hope and other things I’m thankful for


It’s no secret that our country is as divided, broken and far from even a semblance of unity as we’ve been in more than a half-century, since the height of the Vietnam War.

We’ve been headed in this direction for a long time, and the pandemic – instead of bringing us together to fight the deadly but silent foe of COVID-19, which has claimed some 740,000 American lives – has only fractured us further.

Regrettably, we’ve become such a bitter nation that we’re now divided by regions over receiving the vaccines that could save thousands of lives – but which millions still stubbornly refuse to take.

In the midst of such crazy times, it might defy common sense to take time out to give thanks, but it’s more imperative than ever that we do just that later this month. We need to preserve that American tradition on the fourth Thursday of November, not only to maintain our sanity, but also to set the record straight that it’s not all bad out there – there are still many positives that deserve our gratitude.

I started this process recently, after recovering from my first illness since the pandemic started, a very bad cold. My ailment gave me a chance to reflect on several things that I’ll be grateful for when I sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving, and then light the first Hanukkah candle three nights later. (Yes, the Festival of Lights will once again be observed very close to Thanksgiving.)

I’ll be thankful for:

  • A return to full health.
  • All the doctors, nurses and countless other health-care professionals who have given so much to allow daily life to continue during these challenging, and too often horrifying, times.
  • My wife, for not kicking me out of the house when my cold was keeping me up nights, and special thanks to her for whipping up several pots of chicken soup. (Full disclosure: I slept and ate separately and wiped down the computer mouse repeatedly with disinfectants.)
  • My friends and family for sending me encouraging texts and emails.
  • The return of the Boston Marathon to an in-person race after going virtual in September 2020.

The marathon’s comeback on Oct. 11 was vitally important to the region because it kept alive the notion that a sense of normalcy is an achievable goal. The race also proved that, with the significant COVID-19 protocols put into place by the Boston Athletic Association, the longtime organizers of the race, life was able to spring back in Boston.

Several Southeastern Massachusetts runners whom I interviewed for an assignment for another publication were full of gratitude for being able to be back on the course after being forced to run Boston’s virtual marathon last year, which meant running by themselves or with friends somewhere other than the marathon course.

In addition, the runners were ecstatic to be cheered on by the legendary crowds. Their return was significant; spectators’ enthusiasm has always motivated and inspired the runners on the difficult 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston, and their appearance shouldn’t be underestimated. Being able to have people cheering on the runners was one more positive sign that we’ll eventually be able to put the pandemic behind us.

  • People who don’t follow sports may not understand why I’ll give thanks for the post-season run by the 2021 Boston Red Sox, but the team brought a lot of happiness to a region that hasn’t seen much since the winter of 2020.

The Red Sox’ success – which was largely unexpected after they blew a substantial lead in the American League Eastern Division back in August, and had to win their last three games of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs – lifted our spirits.

What the Sox accomplished before losing the American League Championship Series to the Houston Astros – beating their arch-rival New York Yankees in the winner-take-all Wild Card game and then defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Divisional Series with two walk-off wins in Games 3 and 4 – will keep fans warm during those cold January nights.

  • Last – but not least – I’ll be grateful that I live in a country that made those life-saving vaccines available in record time. Without them, there’d be no hope of ever seeing the pandemic disappear; because of them, there is hope for the future. And hope is the most precious thing worth celebrating this Thanksgiving.

LARRY KESSLER ( is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at