There’s no question that for most Americans, 2020 has tested and tried each of us in ways both obvious and invisible. This year will long be remembered and studied as a most consequential year between the global pandemic and social unrest.

In March, days and weeks felt longer as our days took on a startling similarity while many sheltered in place. But now that the holidays are approaching, it seems time is moving faster, even as we struggle to adjust to the holiday season.
Economic uncertainty and concern about the coronavirus cast a long shadow this year. Many are being encouraged to avoid gatherings. For some, annual traditions will be modified beyond recognition or cancelled altogether. Yet, I’m hopeful that as we turn our attention to Thanksgiving, the essence of this uniquely American holiday will infuse the nation with a sense of hope and appreciation—in spite of the fatigue and fear we’ve been carrying since March.
God continues to bless this country. Whatever our individual circumstances, it is only right and proper that we reflect on our blessings and give thanks for what we have.

On the national scale, I’m grateful that this pandemic has not been as deadly as first predicted. In March, some epidemiologists feared that America could lose over 2 million people to the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, those models were wrong. Nevertheless, this virus has proven quite lethal. Thankfully, the case mortality rate has decreased as our front-line medical workers have learned more about the virus and researchers have developed better therapeutics. Promising vaccines are in the works.

At the state level, I am thankful for the hard work and perseverance of Ohioans who have banded together to help one another, find creative solutions to once-in-a-generation problems, and bring joy to the lives of others. At least one of the 8th District’s hospitals has lifted restrictions on visitors so that more family and friends can visit patients. Business owners are doing everything they can to provide goods, services, and employment in a business environment that no one could have imagined even a year ago. As we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners, we can certainly thank Ohio farmers for continuing to feed us.

This year, I find myself grateful for the extra time I spent with my family. Time is truly precious. Any opportunity we have to reclaim time and spend it with those we love is a win. Pandemic measures have forced us to slow down and reevaluate priorities. I know that over the past few months, parents have been more engaged in their children’s education, families have had more dinners together, and simple pleasures—like road trips, visits to the park, and FaceTime chats with faraway friends—have become more important and appreciated as we cultivate our personal relationships.

Like most of you, I look forward to restoring our way of life. Before the pandemic, unemployment was at a record low, the economy was growing, and gathering for large events wasn’t fraught with extra questions about social distancing or mask requirements. With most of the year in the rear-view mirror and a hotly contested election behind us, we can also be grateful for the cessation of violent unrest, the foreseeable end of U.S. military engagement in the Middle East, and Americans’ continued love of freedom. This week as we spend more time with family and loved ones—around the table or via Zoom—I hope that we will all be reminded that what unites us is greater and more powerful than what divides us.

I wish everyone in Ohio’s 8th District a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
This opinion piece appeared in the Hamilton Journal-News.