Giving Thanks When the World is on Fire

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. At this time of year I usually thank you, my readers, for all your support, and I am once again grateful for that this year. As always, it is a privilege to be able to email you. I am also thankful for all of the ways that Interpreter subscribers are an active community: that you not only read these newsletters but also recommend books, email me feedback, and send questions and suggestions that give me ideas for future columns.

But this year, even more than in previous ones, I find that I cannot count the blessings without also counting the sorrows and fears that lurk in their shadows.

While I am thankful for this job and community, I am also thankful that I can work in safety, unlike the 53 journalists and media workers who have been killed in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon since the war began or the many others who continue to work despite constant and inescapable mortal danger.

I am thankful that my family and I do not have to huddle in a hospital or in a school in the vain hope of being safe from bombs, or to rely on an “iron dome” to protect us from rockets.

I am thankful that I have never had to beg my children to be quiet for hours while we hid from people trying to murder us and our neighbors in our own homes. I am thankful that I have not spent every second of the last 46 days and nights frantic over the fate of loved ones taken hostage. I am thankful that my children have never felt the pain of burying a beloved sibling. Thankful that I have never had to scrawl their names on their limbs in permanent marker in case I die and they are found by strangers.

I am thankful that if my children ask me for water, I can just turn on a tap; that if they ask me for food, I can give it to them without having to risk my life to hunt for it in a war zone. Thankful that if we needed a hospital, it would have electricity and sterile equipment and supplies like anesthesia available.

Thankful that my children are alive. Thankful that my husband is alive. Thankful that I am alive. Thankful that all of you reading this are alive. But also sad and angry that we live in a world where these things are blessings to be counted, and where so many cannot do so.


Jenny Sidhu, a reader in Rocklin, Calif., recommends “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver and “Dopesick” by Beth Macy:

A wonderful double feature: Demon Copperhead followed by Dopesick. Or vice versa perhaps? A deep dive into the opioid crisis, its impact on communities and the role of Purdue Pharma. The background information and humanity depicted in these stories had me re-evaluating my own stance on the people who live in the communities affected. An excellent and humbling example of walking in someone else’s shoes.


Thank you to everyone who wrote in to tell me about what you’re reading. Please keep the submissions coming!

I want to hear about things you have read (or watched or listened to) that have had the biggest impact on you this year. What changed your perspective on the world?

If you’d like to participate, you can fill out this form. I may publish your response in a future newsletter.

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