In chaos, only gratitude will do

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown, CC-BY-SA-NC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Mesabi Tribune.

Thank you.

Simple words not said enough.

We gather this week for Thanksgiving. But not like usual. We gather in our homes, mindful of events outside our control. Not all of us can travel for the holiday this year. Instead, we approach the day with trepidation as the COVID-19 pandemic rages out of control across our nation and through our small communities in northern Minnesota.

But still, we gather. In spirit if not in person.

Thank you.

Thank you for our health, such as it is, for as long as it lasts. Thanks also for the health of our loved ones. Wishing for good health is a lot like praying for rain. It doesn’t always work. Health fails, just as crops sometimes wither in dry fields. Too often we take our health for granted, and the time we have with those we love. This year we give up comforts to grant more health and more time to more people.

Thank you.

Thank you for food. Truth be told, some families are glad to avoid the full turkey dinner this year, instead cooking something more to their liking. We’ll be having the traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and trimmings. Thank you.

But also thank you for providing to those who do not have means to create a meal like this. Food banks worked themselves ragged this year to keep up with rising demand. Schools send food home in some districts. The existence of hunger and the means to combat it should rightly give us all purpose and gratitude.

Thank you.

Thank you for music. It fills my ears when I am alone. My body moves — halting, awkward and slow — but I can feel the beat sync with my heart. Even the dead can sing, their voices cast in heavenly amber.

Thank you for the cold wind on steaming hot skin outside the sauna door. Thank you for boots that will hold for another season. Thanks for all the ways that our children are like us and for all the ways they are different.

Thank you for the truth.

They say these are “post-fact” times. It does feel that way, but no matter. The truth is always here, exactly where it belongs, waiting to be discovered. “Truth cannot contradict truth,” said the philosopher Averroes more than 800 years ago. Pope John Paul II used that same phrase in addressing a council of scientists in 1996.

The pursuit of truth is always an option. It will always expose lies, misinformation, and the desperate gnashing of charlatans. The ideal of truth is the only truly unbiased source of information; and it can only be found when we set aside our own biases and listen. We can’t speak it into existence. Real truth speaks us into existence.

They say these are strange times, but compared to what? They say these are bad times, but they could be worse. These times could be better, yes, and that seems to be the one thing on which we agree. May it unite us in action.

Thank you for good news. A vaccine on the horizon. Once again, humans travel in space. The torque on new electric pickups is something else.

Thank you for bad news. Heartbreaking loss and hopeless arguments. We know that not all good can last, but neither can the bad.

This week we break bread. We break a saltine cracker. We break ice in puddles marching toward a new year and a new purpose.

Thank you.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.




  1. David W Kannas says

    Thank you for your magical ability to write what I would like to but can’t. Enjoy your Thanksgiving of turkey and trimmings.

  2. Awwww, Aaron 😖😩😭 💜

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.