This is going to be the second year that we gather around the Thanksgiving table with the COVID-19 cloud hovering over us.

What a tough second COVID-19 year it has been.

We have lost 263 Guamanians whose lives were cut short and their deaths officially tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To the families who lost their loved ones, we wish you the strength to heal from the loss. 

For the living, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful for - even with all of the challenges we face.

This Thanksgiving seems to have prompted many people to begin taking back the day-to-day activities we gave up as a precaution against the novel coronavirus - restrictions on movement, travel, get-togethers and essentially the way we live.

Even though life has not been the same since COVID-19 arrived, in March 2020, we have that spirit of Guamanian resiliency from typhoons and other challenges to stand up and keep going.

We are now starting to see that it's OK again to go out, as long as we keep a safe distance and we wear our masks properly. With the vast majority of us fully vaccinated, there is a sense of hope and resolve to regain our pre-pandemic lives.

Just a few months ago we were seeing a few hundred new COVID-19 cases a day. Now it's down to single to low double digits. 

Our smiles have not been seen that much as we are still forced to mask up when we leave the comfort of our homes.

Slowing down, simplifying

But the pandemic's restrictions of movement have also somehow brought many of us closer together. Home has become once again the center of gravity for many households.

We are thankful for the chance to be around family more often than before COVID-19 hit.

We have, since COVID-19, learned to adjust to simplified lives.

There were many things we didn't need to do or to shop for or be out-and-about for. That's what the pandemic helped us to see: Doing less means living more.

That insight gives us power to not always be in the race to keep up with others. We are fine just being us. And that realization is a reason to be thankful.

Being content with what we have while also trying to reach some of our aspirations at a more realistic pace, and being fine with what we can achieve, is another reason to be thankful.

We've got to be thankful for that new way of thinking and living.

We are thankful for the financial lifelines the federal government has given Guam and its residents. Nearly $3 billion worth of pandemic aid has flowed from federal government coffers into Guam.

Tens of thousands of Guamanians have been able to get by during a historic pandemic event of the modern era.

But while we gather around a feast or a simple meal today, we also recognize some households have not recovered from the financial devastation caused by job losses or steep cuts in pay.

For those who still have jobs or have found better jobs, having that financial security is a good reason to be thankful.

And the lucky ones also can see that being thankful also means finding a way to pay it forward, to help those who are still down and out.

We are also thankful to have the right to freely vote during the next election season. 

We have the power to choose. We have the power to decide who should lead.

Happy Thanksgiving, Guam!

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