Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankfulness in Difficult Times

The illustrations of Norman Rockwell captured American traditions so perfectly that they continue to resonate with us today, but Thanksgiving 2020 for most of us is going to be different.  Perhaps we will roast the turkey just as we do every Thanksgiving, but for many of us, family will not be gathered around the table.  Even so, we have reasons to be thankful.  This week's blog will share some of the reasons I have to be thankful, and I hope my abbreviated list of gratitude will remind us that although 2020 has brought loss and disharmony, there are also reasons to give thanks.

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick

If you are searching for a reason to be thankful, one reason is obvious.  Many people are making our lives easier by their sacrifices and volunteering, from those who continue to go to work every day so that we can buy products we need to those who volunteer at food distribution locations, to thousands in between.  But perhaps those for whom we must be most thankful are the health care providers who put their lives at risk, disrupt their own families, and break their hearts with the suffering they see around them--doing their jobs to help the rest of us.

In a time during which Covid-19 reminds us how fragile life can be, the importance of family and friends become more apparent.  A decade and a half ago, descendants of the first occupants to live in the house behind them gathered at the farm where we had often celebrated holidays.  Today, several of those in the photograph are gone, but the memories of good times together at this place with family and friends remain, and those memories are another reason to be thankful.

 This year, although tragedy and need will fill our memories, I have many reasons to be particularly thankful to many people.  To Fort Hays State University, for special recognition at Homecoming (celebrated virtually) and to the upcoming zoom celebration they are hosting Dec. 1st for the release of my book, "Prairie Bachelor, The Story of a Kansas Homesteader and the Populist Movement."  Too many people have been part of those two events to recognize them individually!  To the University Press of Kansas and the many people who played an important role in publishing my book in the middle of a pandemic.  To Lucille M. Hall, and those who keep her dream of a museum in St. John, Kansas alive--the museum in which Isaac Werner's journal was found.  To so many others that I cannot name, who loaned family images for the book, who encouraged me not to give up on the manuscript for over a decade, who followed my blog, who aided my research in museums and libraries, who welcomed me in a church in Wernersville and introduced me to a Werner descendant, who helped me find Werner graves, who ordered the book months ago and continue to place orders, who were strangers who shared information on and face book.  I was inspired to write the book because a stranger who died decades ago recorded the stories of his neighbors.  I wrote the book with his journal at its heart because I wanted to preserve the history of the struggles and courage of those early settlers for another generation to read.

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Each day, as I sit at my computer to write this blog and as I sat at the computer sharing Isaac Werner's story, this photograph at left is my view.  The lumber in the old part of the building you see came from the tenant house my grandfather built for his fulltime farm worker, which my father recycled to build their garage, and which my husband and I used to expand the building.  All of us build on top of what was left to us by those who came before us, and we leave behind what future generations will build upon.

I hope "Prairie Bachelor" will share with young readers today and in the future the struggles and achievements of those who came before them, and the hopes and dreams those forefathers and foremothers had for their descendants to come.  It is a pattern repeated generation after generation all around the world, and it is important to remind ourselves to be thankful of what those ancestors, and the choices and sacrifices they made,   did for us.  We should not forget people like Isaac Werner, and countless other forgotten men and women, who left no descendants but made a difference, whether large or small, documented or not, for those of us who followed.
Thank you to so many people who have made this a remarkable year for so many, facing difficult times  with courage and generosity. 

1 comment:

Steven Shively said...

Lyn, Great pairing of the Rockwell with your Covid heroes art. I see some echoes of your portraits for the Willa Cather Review; you are very good with faces. I look forward to "seeing" you on Dec. 1 and to the arrival of the book. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Larry, Steve Shively