The Importance of Gratitude in Challenging Times

By Aaron Kaufman

The news is extremely depressing these days. 100,000 Americans have died as a result of COVID -19, millions of people have lost their jobs and there have been several troubling shootings of late. Many people with disabilities, including me, at times experience social isolation and for many, especially my friends who live alone, the pandemic has compounded that isolation. Also people with disabilities are more at risk of getting and dying from the coronavirus. According to an April 8,  2020 article in the New York Times a large consortium of private service providers found that residents of group homes and similar facilities in New York City and surrounding areas were 5.34 times more likely than the general population to develop COVID-19 and nearly 5 times more likely to die from it. This is a time where it is easy to become extra anxious or depressed, no one can be blamed for feeling that way.

However, this is a time when it is essential to focus on gratitude. It’s not always easy but I have tried to focus on all the blessings that life has afforded me. At a time when many people are out of work I have a job as a disability lobbyist for the Jewish Federations of North America which I love because I myself have cerebral palsy.  My job enables me to fight for “my people” every day.  I am proud of the work that my colleagues and I are doing to ensure that Congress understands the needs of people with disabilities and those that support them.

My brother, who also has cerebral palsy, was among those who became infected with the virus, however I am profoundly grateful that he remained asymptomatic throughout the whole time and that the danger has passed. I am so thankful for the broad support network I have who support me when I am feeling low; they raise my spirits. In addition, my Judaism is very important to me. I am a member of the Union for Reform Judaism North American Board so I appreciate that my synagogue, Temple Micah in Washington DC, has had a wide variety of services on Zoom.  During this uncertain time my faith has given me great comfort. So, my dear reader, if you are struggling I hope you find something that comforts you and I urge you to focus every day on gratitude. I know this is easier said than done. If you are struggling know you are not alone and I leave you with my favorite Irish proverb:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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