Sharing gratitude: Thoughts from readers this second pandemic Thanksgiving (Part 1 of 4) –

CLEVELAND, Ohio – They say gratitude is the antidote to hopelessness. It sparks joy in dark times. It lends perspective to hardship. And goodness, do we need it now – during this second holiday season of a pandemic that seems to stretch on and on, finding new paths to devastation, new parts of our lives to plunder.
Indeed, COVID-19 has taken much from us. But you, dear readers, have shown us that it has not claimed our spirit.
This year, and The Plain Dealer invited you to share what’s best in your life, to help remind one another that, despite the pandemic’s wreckage, there remains much to be thankful for.
The responses from readers are touching, heartwarming, inspiring. Most aren’t grateful for wealth or fortune, but for full refrigerators, friends who are like family and having a safe place to call home. You can find them all here.
Their stories tell of beating drug addictions and the power of forgiveness. Expressions of gratitude for the babies we’ve welcomed during the past year. For selfless organ donors, who gave loved ones more time. For moments spent at a friend’s side, as they passed away.
Our readers are thankful for the COVID-19 vaccines, brave clinical trial participants, the kindness of strangers and the lessons the pandemic taught about empathy and community.
Below you’ll find the first of four installments of more than 300 reader responses. Check back later today and tomorrow for the rest. We hope these submissions warm your heart this Thanksgiving, as they did ours, and reaffirm for you that we remain all in this together.
Once posted, you can find all four gratitude articles here.
I am thankful for the anonymous donor who donated their bone marrow to my mom. Without this amazing, selfless gift my mom may not have had too long to watch her grandson grow up. I cannot thank this donor enough for their wonderfully compassionate act! From my entire family, thank you! — Anonymous, Strongsville
I am grateful that at nearly 78 years old I can still run 2-3 miles every other day, practice yoga, work out with a trainer and stay in touch with my six grandchildren. I am so grateful for FaceTime and Zoom, which make it possible for me to talk to and see my grandchildren in Israel. In spite of all the challenges of the past few years, I am leading a rich, active, full life. — Gail Arnoff, Shaker Heights
Two family members have been critically ill with non-COVID-related issues over the past five months. Today, I am deeply grateful for the nurses I have encountered throughout our family’s journey. ICU and floor nurses are angels of the highest magnitude. They save lives daily and are rarely given public credit. Know that we see you, we thank you and we pray for you. Our family owes you all a debt of gratitude. May you reap all the good things you sow. — Anonymous, Lakewood
I am most grateful for the gift of life. The greatest privilege is to be alive every day. Having been given this gift requires that I not squander it. I am not here to merely take in life’s pleasures and occupy precious space, although having a balance of all that life has to offer is part of the joy of living. The gift of life expects that I will serve my fellow humans no matter where they live, how they look or how they live their lives. That entails not only my time and talent in service of my family and neighbors, but of our home and this planet. I don’t always succeed, but that’s not an excuse for not trying. — John, Cleveland
I would not be who I am without the love, support, encouragement and forgiveness of my family, more particularly my wife. My family has prayed for me, rallied for me, fed me and clothed me. My wife has done all the latter things plus held me, wiped my tears, challenged me to be better, chastised me, listened to me, cheered for me and believed in me. Although I have made mistakes and have worked vigilantly to restore the image my family possessed of me, I’m thankful that they have not cast me aside and still agree that I can be the best husband, father, brother, uncle, nephew and cousin they deserve. I love you all. — Michael Ryan, Cleveland
I’m grateful for the abundance of outdoor activities, parks and events that are available to us in Northeast Ohio. Camping, hiking, kayaking and biking have provided my family with fun and safe activities before and during COVID. — Stacy Koneval, Medina
While at a restaurant recently a small boy at the table next to me, maybe 5 years old, looked at me and with a big smile said, “Hi, how are you today?” I was anything but fine, dealing with pain I feared would send me back to the hospital. However, jolted by the joy and innocence of this child, I responded “I’m fine and how are you?” He was fine and obviously happy. We exchanged smiles during our meals and when he was leaving he whispered to his dad “Can I give her a hug?” He gave me the biggest, best hug ever. I went from sadness and depression to being loved and important. — Ann, Westlake
I am so very grateful for another day on the right side of the dirt, on the sunny side of the sod. I am so very grateful for every day, every breath, every laugh, every hug, every moment. I am so very grateful for a loving family, a roof over my head, a warm bed, a full refrigerator, reasonably good health, and a nation at peace. I am so very grateful that I have enjoyed, in this life, more than my share. I am so very grateful for having been born in the United States. I am so very grateful for the smell of Lake Erie every morning, the crisp fall air, the sun in my face and the bounty that surrounds me. Never take this for granted. — Eric Eakin, Bay Village
I am so thankful to live in the Cleveland area, home of the world’s premier heart care facility – the Cleveland Clinic. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition in early March, my heart stopped twice while at my cardiology appointment on March 26t at main campus. Thanks to the quick action of the doctors in the Heart Failure Center, in addition to the extraordinary care I received during my stay at the Cardiac Unit, I am alive today. This will be my most grateful Thanksgiving ever. — Amy Martin, Lakewood
I am grateful for my friends and family. Without them I am not sure how I would have made it through the past couple years. It has been a long journey, but they have been there cheering me on and supporting me through breakups, completing a Master’s program, job losses, new jobs and the deaths of loved ones. It is such a comfort to know that despite all the hardships we’ve all experienced the last few years, we are able to continue supporting each other through it all. — Alexis, North Olmsted
Grateful to live and work in a town that truly tries to welcome everyone, no matter what they look like, how much money they make, who they love or pray to (or if they don’t pray at all), how their brains and bodies work and what they value. We don’t always succeed, but we keep trying. — Bonnie Gordon, Shaker Heights
I am so grateful that on Dec. 19, 2020, my son Steve received a new heart! It was during the pandemic so we couldn’t be there for him. He is 49 years old and has three children. He had a congenital heart condition where the heart hardens until it can no longer beat (ARVD). His father died of it when he was 41. I thank all the doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital for their excellent care for him even during a pandemic! And I thank the Cleveland Clinic for their care and for including him in their research program. Now others can be tested to see if they carry this gene. His father also contributed to oblation research in 1988. — Jean Rogers, North Olmsted
I am so grateful for “stranger angels,” meaning people who treat others with whom they have little or no personal relationship with kindness and compassion. My heart is warmed in and around Lakewood by store staff who smile and chat with customers; residents who offer free meals, goods or services to meet a need they hear of; walkers who rush to help someone who has tripped and fallen; neighbors I may not know well but who send kind notes or drop off goodies; dog owners who make eye contact, wave and smile at passersby, etc. The moments they create may make all the difference in lifting someone’s spirit and also benefit the giver. — Denise, Lakewood
My dear friend of 54 years, Jeanne has been battling dementia for years. I was with her every step of the way. On October 1, 2021, she was actively dying when I got to the nursing home. I held her hand and told her that it was time for her to leave her earthly dwelling. She passed away 15 minutes after I arrived. I feel truly blessed that I was with her when she passed away. I miss her daily but know that she is now safe in our lord’s loving arms. — Susan Mitchell, Cleveland
As sappy as it sounds, I’m grateful for my family. We have been isolated for so long because of this pandemic. It is wonderful to be surrounded by them at the dining table. I’m thankful that I could go to New York to see my 94-year-old mother and extended family. I’m grateful that my husband fills the birdfeeders so we can watch the cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers in our backyard. I’m truly blessed to have fantastic neighbors and friends. I’m thrilled that Playhouse Square is back open for the Key Bank Series. I’m grateful for our health in avoiding this horrendous disease that is crippling our world. — Anonymous, Brunswick
We are thankful for everyone at the Cleveland Clinic who helped make my husband’s recent kidney transplant a success. Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, technicians, counselors: without exception, each of them put us at ease and addressed every concern, no matter how small. They have given us hope for a bright future and for many more healthy holiday seasons together as a family. We are grateful each day for their skilled, compassionate care. — Anonymous, North Royalton
The disruption of COVID-19 forced me to pause a hectic schedule, to be more mindful and present. And the greatest gift has been nature as a salve. There is nothing as restorative as a stroll along the shores of Lake Erie and for that I am grateful. — Allison Lukacsy-Love, Cleveland
Much gratitude to the scientists who spent years working in clinical research and development who brought to fruition the SARS COVID vaccine, and the brave individuals who volunteered for the clinical trials who brought this vaccine to the world. — Candace Pavia, Cleveland
I am thankful my recent biopsy was negative. Praise God! Thankful my dad survived a recent stroke and for family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! — Anonymous, Akron
At age 73, I am grateful to still be around, a privilege denied to many of the people who nurtured and supported me in my life — parents, siblings and friends. I remember them in the shimmering fall leaves and breathtaking sunsets we see this time of year. I am grateful for a roof over my head, food on the table, access to great health care in Cleveland, a life-saving vaccine, the camaraderie of friends and neighbors, my adult children launched and doing well and most of all a loving and supportive partner. Life in good. — Jessica Schreiber, Cleveland
I am grateful I found out I was pregnant with our first child during the early days of lockdown, in March 2020. I cried tears of fear, joy and hope. I sent my husband, masked up, to the grocery store for my cravings and morning sickness requests. I worked on the frontlines, entering no public place but the hospital for five months, while my belly slowly grew. Our daughter brought so much light during a dark time and was born on Election Day, November 2020. Thank you, Serena Jay. I am grateful for you. — Alexandra Allman, Willoughby
I recently had major surgery and thought I could recover without any help. I was wrong. I now know that without the help of my two sisters 24 hours a day, my son and my neighbors I would not have been able to do it by myself. For their unselfish giving of their time and care, I am forever grateful. Thank you Loretta, Sharon, Tom, Kathy and Bill. — Bernadette Oliver, Cleveland
For the professional and caring staff of University Hospitals and for the two organ donors who provided the organs my wife needed to live! Without these individuals her life would not be what it is today and she wouldn’t be here to share Thanksgiving and life with me. I am truly in debt and forever thankful to these wonderful people. — Ed, Olmsted Falls
We were just informed yesterday, that the two tumors in my shoulder bone are almost gone. I am on my way to beating cancer for the third time. My five-year battle with this ugly disease has been grueling, but I am determined to wipe this ugly disease out! I could not ask for anything more to be thankful for than this… to be here with my family, priceless! — Doug Leff, Columbia Station
My family is deeply grateful for the staff at Shurmer Place in Strongsville. After three jabs of COVID vaccine, my 96-year-old mother began expressing symptoms. On Monday, Oct. 25 she tested negative and on Tuesday the nurse said, “I think you need to see a doctor about that cough.” I drove her to Medina Hospital where she tested positive for COVID and was hospitalized. After responding well to therapies she went back to her apartment on Halloween. If it hadn’t been for the alert nurse insisting my mother seek treatment the outcome would have been different. Much gratitude to you and Medina Hospital staff for her life. — Rebecca Cline, Medina
We paid off our mortgage this month! We have worked hard to assume responsibility for our retirement with no debt and a well-maintained home. It will not be luxurious, but it will be fine. We even prepaid our final expenses so our children will not be burdened. — Christine Weick, Bay Village
I’m grateful for my faith, family, friends, parishioners and even strangers. We live in a great country, and although we are not perfect, I am so lucky to have been born in this country considering how hard it could be someplace else. I’m thankful for all the people who make this country what it is, the truck drivers, blue collar workers, white collar workers, first responders, military, teachers, health care workers and the list goes on. I’m also extremely thankful for my health. I could easily not be here from past health events, but our loving creator has kept me around for some reason or another. Have a blessed Thanksgiving! — Deacon John, Perry
This pandemic isolates us and divides us all. Without my family and friends, Life would have been very depressing. They give me joy and love. — Gail Larson, Cleveland Heights
I’m truly grateful for just being able to breath, to live with all my body parts fully functioning. I’m so thankful for all this that I do have access to. I think people take for granted what they have in life. Some people think their family is annoying and crazy, which sometimes I do, but I’m just grateful to have a family and to enjoy one another because I love them and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m learning how to be more grateful every day for every little thing that needs thanks. — Neveah Harvey, Barberton
I’m grateful for my family and the work that they put in to give me the life that I live today. Without them I would be a completely different person and I’m so happy that they helped mold me into the person that I am today. I’m thankful that I have a house to go home to every day and that I never have to worry about whether or not there will be food on the table. I am very lucky to have the life that I do and I’m grateful for all of the people who make my life valuable. — Davis Sattele, Hudson
I’m thankful that I have a loving husband of 30 years and that we have everything we need. We may not have everything we want, but we have enough. I’m very aware of people who don’t have enough, and I’m grateful that at times I am able to share what I have. — Chandra Morgan-Henley, Cleveland
I am grateful for a plastic yellow whiffle ball. This ball has changed my life. It has brought joy and friendship I did not know I needed. We hit middle age and the opportunities to meet new and wonderful people diminish as our children go off. This little ball allowed me to learn a new sport, be outside during a pandemic and to cherish each day with sun with new appreciation. The laughter, the encouragement and the creation of new friendships… who would have guessed all from a small plastic ball. This ball tapped into a passion I had no idea existed, how amazing is that? St. Ignatius tells us to find God in all things… who knew! — Gretchen, Avon Lake
We appreciate the simple things. The visit of grandchildren and smiling of strangers. We are so happy to see each other’s faces again. These are the two things that immediately came to mind. — Elaine Kennard, Rocky River
There is so much I appreciate — being a person of faith, my dear family and friends, kind and supportive co-workers, having a safe place to live and the ability to get lost in a good story. I am so grateful for the library where we can all get education and entertainment. — Anonymous, Brooklyn
I am grateful to the millions who continue to support our three major sports teams in Cleveland and the thousands who play or work for the organizations. From all walks of life, young or old, every race, color or creed, every religion or political spectrum, our Cleveland pride as I have experienced worldwide makes me very grateful to live and work in Northeast Ohio. Our fans’ passion, dedication, persistence, and never-ending faith passed on through generations makes us all one. I give thanks, remain hopeful and proud of everyone who continues to be Cleveland. Happy Thanksgiving! — David Zavagno, Solon
Thankful for the many trips to West Virginia to cabins in the mountains at a new favorite spot where we’ve enjoyed the peace one can find in nature, cooking great food and forgetting about the chaotic, COVID-ridden, and polarized society we live in for a few days at a time. — Cory M., Cleveland
While I contracted COVID before the inoculations were available, I was left with everything intact. Given the close proximity to my family, not one of them was affected. The loss of a drear friend’s father from COVID made me realize how very fortunate my family was and, of course, how important they are to me. See? Out of bad always comes a little bit of good. — Anita Gray, Lyndhurst
Grateful for God, family, good health, a great wife, good friends and a good job. The kind words from the people I pass through the day they keep me going especially in these times. Please, throughout the day, say something nice to somebody. It might not be appreciated at the time, but it does make a difference. — Greg Thompson, Youngstown
Grateful for reasonably good health but… grandchildren! Of course, we’re grateful for our adult children but the “grands” are in a whole different category. They never fail to bring joy, pride, enthusiasm, fun and laughter… and we continue to learn from them. There are none of the responsibilities of raising children and yet enjoying all of the benefits. Pure undiluted love! — Terry Reid, Wickliffe
I am grateful that we are sharing Thanksgiving once again with our family and our dearest friends. COVID canceled our annual get together last year and we all missed each other. I’m also very grateful that our dearest friend, who is battling a nasty form of leukemia, will be able to join us. He and my husband have been best friends for 78 years. Seventy-eight years! That is something to be grateful for. — Michele Stadnik, Medina
Now, at almost age 84, I lose good friends every year. I miss them but I’m thankful for having had them as we faced life together. I’m thankful too to have lived long enough to meet great grandchildren as they join out family — two more this year. We now have a Great Eight. — Melvin Maurer, Westlake
Strangely so, I am grateful that COVID-19 taught us to be careful, watch out for others and Zoom. Every Saturday since March 11, 2020, at 2:00 p.m., I have been on Zoom with my family all over the country, most I can’t visit in person with due to age and health and that is the gift I am grateful for. — Iris November, Beachwood
Grateful that my husband is still with me after his massive stroke six years ago. Every day that I have him in my life is a blessing. After a few difficult years, I’m so thankful for a new job this year and for the friends and family who have kept me going. — Jerilyn Burgess, North Olmsted
Having contracted COVID-19 at the end of February 2020, and being 70 years old at the time, I’m so grateful to have only had a mild case. While I have had a lot of long COVID effects, I’m so glad to not have gotten seriously ill and/or died. Life is good. — Priscilla Smith, Akron
One of the things I’m most grateful for right now is having a car. You never really think about how nice it is to be able to get where you’re going way faster than has ever been possible at any other time in history. Especially now that it’s getting cold, having a car that has heat is even more of a blessing. — Sean, Hudson
I’m grateful for being healthy enough to enjoy the everyday parts of life. Today I’m grateful for playing with my kids in the first snow of the year. Watching their excitement and being able to build forts and snowmen together is the best gift. — Anonymous, Cuyahoga Falls
I am more grateful now than ever. It has not only been a trying time for our planet, but I don’t believe any human has been left untouched by the effects of the pandemic and variants. Whether through the disease itself, the economic impacts, or the way we, our families or friends, have reacted to it. It has shown us the best of humanity and the worst. Hopefully this is the year we all become a little more grateful and creative on how to spend our holidays. Sometimes we forget how much we have, how truly blessed we are. Our greatest gifts are the memories we make and the photographs we take. I hope everyone is especially grateful. — Patti Caudill Smith, Sandusky
I am thankful for my son’s years of sobriety after years of addiction to heroin. He is healthy and happy with a wife and our first granddaughter. My prayers were listened to and I pray daily for him and for others and their families still struggling. There is a God, there is hope. — Anonymous, Independence
I am so thankful for the vaccine so that we may enjoy our family and friends again during the holidays. Happy holidays! — Nichole, Concord Township
I am grateful for the family members and friends around me who always no matter what have always supported me. Even when we disagree and have arguments, they’re always there for me. Having these people in your life is something I will never and hope to never take for granted. Everyone needs these types of people and I’m glad I have them around me. — Brandon Bennici, Hudson
I am thankful for the COVID-19 vaccines. When I had a breakthrough infection in mid-October the double dose of Pfizer did its job. I didn’t have to go to the hospital and I didn’t wind up in the obituaries. I was miserable for a couple weeks but survived it. — Stephen Michael Kellat, Ashtabula
I’m a “transplant”, arriving, unplanned more or less, to live in Cleveland 11 years ago. For that I am very grateful. The friends and neighbors I landed amongst are one of my greatest gifts. Cleveland itself has so much to offer from the music to the food to the people — all so much to be thankful for here. — Susan Hamann, South Euclid
That I live in a democratic republic with free speech assembly and voting. — Thomas Beardslee, Cleveland
I am grateful for my dear group of friends. They are like family and I don’t know what I’d do without them. — Meghan Breitzmann, Shaker Heights
As everything shut down in March 2020, we all faced crushing isolation. Kaaren, a member of our small book club, bought a heater for her garage so that we could continue to meet, 6 feet apart and masked, throughout those difficult times. Our little group of six now ranges in age from 67 to 102!. Kaaren accepted no help on the cost of this improvement. She provided us with the only consistent in-person gathering we could look forward to each month. While we missed our usual hugs, it was pure gold to see our friends in person. Thank you Kaaren! — Charlie Reed-Mundell, Cleveland
I am grateful for warm hugs on a day where the snow has fallen, for heat in my house on a winter day and air conditioning on a summer one. I’m thankful that I wake up every morning with a roof over my head and sun shining through my windows (most of the time). I’m thankful for holidays like Thanksgiving where we all get to gather around the table, or the 4th Of July with fireworks and cookouts. For sports outings where all gather over one common interest or concerts that pull us off social media to spend time enjoying music. I have lots to be grateful for and I could go on and on forever. — Gracie Cerutti, Hudson
It’s said that crisis brings opportunity and the COVID tragedy has given many people the opportunity to do better. The suffering from COVID preferentially hit our society’s most vulnerable people and we know we need to do more to protect them. We better understand now too the criticality of essential workers in so many areas of our life and the necessity that they all get paid a living wage with benefits. Our priorities have been reset as we more deeply grasp the essential nature of family, friends and our physical, emotional and spiritual health. We are grateful for this opportunity to do better. We all are activists now. — Arthur Hargate, Cleveland
I’ve learned that gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes. I’m grateful for the change in seasons, as each day has a new look and feel. I’m grateful for my porch heater that has allowed me to sit outside with a warm blanket and a snuggling dog. I’m grateful for my family who actually drew closer through Zoom this past year. We actually met altogether on Thanksgiving via Zoom for the first time in many years. I’m grateful for friends, who have become like family. I’m grateful for my pup Nellie, who loves me and any other human she sees. Having a dog forces you outside on even the worst of days, which is good for me mentally and physically. — Sara Maher, Lyndhurst
There is so much I appreciate — being a person of faith, my dear family and friends, kind and supportive co-workers, having a safe place to live and the ability to get lost in a good story. I am so grateful for the library where we can all get education and entertainment. — Anonymous, Brooklyn
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