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This is the best week of the year to stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on all our many blessings. Tomorrow (Thursday) is Thanksgiving.

With the covid-19 virus raging, it is not the time to have friends and family over for a big meal. So, as we shelter alone for the sake of our health and the health of others, take some quiet time, some downtime, and some time for reflection about this year -- and the future.

I usually write this column just days before Thanksgiving, but I did it a week ago, perhaps to hold at arms-length just where we are today, the day before Thanksgiving.

There are more, I am not afraid to say, more uncharted waters ahead for all of us.

Yet there is a lot we should all be thankful for in 2020 and, certainly, as 2021 is hiding just around the corner. This is a time to, perhaps, be ever so thankful. I mean to be truly thankful.

Be thankful for good health. In this pandemic, all my harping on all of us overlooking how valuable and what a blessing good health really is may have taken hold. As 2020 draws to a close, more than 260,000 American deaths can be directly attributed to this virus since last March.

We need to be thankful for others among us, doctors, nurses and others who work on the front lines of this pandemic. They are fearlessly working hard and truly want all of our citizens to live and live healthier lives.

We need to be thankful to be living in the United States of America. Where else on this planet would you have as many freedoms, including the right to complain, to criticize this great nation of ours, without the threat of retribution or being jailed.

And we have the vote of the people that special time every four years to choose our national leader -- the president of the United States.

As always, we all need to be thankful to be living in Arkansas.

We should be thankful for the natural beauty that surrounds us. I am truly thankful there are those who are tireless to keep the natural beauty ever-present in our state.

Be thankful for a free press, especially one without the trappings of hidden agendas, unfairness and government control. In these days of a declining print press, I feel extremely thankful to come to you each week in this award-winning, community-driven, and well-read and highly-regarded publication.

Despite the social distancing of this pandemic, which has altered the way we work, shop, meet, play and live in our communities, I am thankful.

I am thankful for the legion of civic clubs, nonprofit organizations and tireless volunteers that exist to serve others in so many ways in our communities.

I am thankful for such public facilities -- many have been shuttered but continue to serve the public, such as libraries, senior citizen centers, boys and girls clubs. We have all used more parks, walking trails and other recreational/public facilities in the region during this pandemic.

And we cannot forget in these uncertain times the important job our public school system does in educating our children, both in-person classes and online virtual learning.

Despite many being closed to group worship, I am ever so thankful for the plethora of churches, temples, synagogues and meeting houses of almost every religion, that continue to minister by reaching out, comforting and feeding many.

We need to be so thankful in this state despite this virus to have a governor and a state health department that have been out front of this pandemic since day one, protecting our citizens.

Our local elected delegation is among the very best of those who continue to serve the common good of our state.

Be thankful everyone. Wear your mask. Stay socially distanced and, when available soon, I hope, take the vaccine.

Hopefully, a better year, a transition year of 2021, is just around the corner.

I am thankful for that -- yes, I am.

--Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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