Finding joy in troubling times

It can be difficult to be thankful amid such a turbulent time in history. Bad news and uncertainty seems to come in all varieties these days, from the pandemic to discrimination to the wealth divide and the general anxieties of everyday life. Watching channels like CNN or MSNBC all day could make one think that we are in a hopeless state without any sources of comfort or joy. The same goes for being on social media (perhaps it’s even worse there). But we do have things to be thankful for in November 2021, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Members of the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) donated a holiday meal and celebrated with residents of Quads Housing, an LGBTQ home for youth ages 18-21.

We have community groups like the William Way Community Center, Greater Philly GOAL, Level Up, and others giving out free meals to people for Thanksgiving. Similarly, many groups such as TransWay or the John C Anderson Apartment residents are doing their own events for their respective members.

We have organizations resuming in person events, including the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert, the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s TOY fundraiser, and performances at local bars and clubs in the Gayborhood.

We have much to be thankful for politically, with the greatest ever number of LGBTQ elected officials, over 1,000, in office in 2022. We also have LGBTQ people being elected in more places around the country, which shows greater acceptance in places that are outside of the populated east and west coasts. And there were even some hopeful signs that the courts — despite the tidal wave of Trump-appointed judges and the rulings that didn’t seem to side with the community — will not be as anti-LGBTQ as we might have thought.

On the entertainment front, we have numerous LGBTQ-centered holiday films being released this year as well as films with LGBTQ characters. It’s a step up from the two or three films last year, which itself was a step up from the zero films a few years ago. We also have more and more LGBTQ artists, musicians, sportspeople, and entertainers coming out, which is always a good sign.

All of these things might seem small in comparison to the size and scope of a dangerous, worldwide virus or a threatening political movement that could ultimately shift our (largely) stable democracy. But they’re worth savoring and worth celebrating, because they remind us of a few important points. They remind us that we can make change on the local level and see things improve, and that such change may look very different from the grim national picture that we see on the news. They also remind us that our community is, as it’s always been, growing and evolving to do more and do better for people. It’s not perfect, and it never will be, but it will continue to exist as we do.

Perhaps most importantly, though, these little bits of positivity remind us that it’s not possible to survive alone. All of the things I mentioned above are only possible because people are working together to make them happen. Anyone who got elected was successful because of their campaign staff. The events happening for Thanksgiving are only happening because of the donations of time, money and resources of many people. The celebrities and non-celebrities who come out of the closet only do so because they’ve seen others do it and know what is possible. Even the food you’ll hopefully enjoy is only possible because people gathered it, packaged it, shipped it, and sold it.

So, on this Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season, remember to be thankful for the things — but also the people — that make your life possible.

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