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Giving thanks: our vaccine against negativity

A restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego on Nov. 19.
A restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego on Nov. 19.Bing Guan/Bloomberg

Under normal circumstances, family and friends gather at Thanksgiving to celebrate life, health, liberty, happiness, and all we are grateful for. Thanksgiving is traditionally the antithesis to social distancing.

This year is different. With the pandemic raging — even with the promise of breakthroughs in COVID-19 vaccine development — Thanksgiving doesn’t look the same.

As a rabbi, I know one thing is certain: The gift of Thanksgiving resonates today more than ever. Just being alive is reason enough to say thank you. Every breath we take is a gift, which should evoke a feeling of gratitude. What may have been taken for granted in the past is now something to be appreciated by all.


A vaccine’s purpose is to help the body build immunity against a foreign threat. With the injection, the body can develop a defense mechanism against future viral attacks.

Saying thank you does something remarkably similar. When we express gratitude for the blessings in our lives, we train ourselves to build immunity against the challenges life throws at us. When we are thankful for what we have, we don’t focus on what’s missing. Today, and every day, consider all the seemingly small things you may be thankful for — waking, breathing, smiling, eating.

Giving thanks is our vaccine against negativity. It is how we build immunity against pessimism, cynicism, or antipathy. While we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved, the vaccine for emotional and spiritual well-being is proven.

Rabbi Mendy Uminer