Thanks-giving in the Age of Covid-19

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Many are now familiar with the heartwarming moment, last week, when Governor Cuomo described how he drew strength from the goodness of folks who offered support and encouragement, during the pandemic.   He read a simple—but moving—letter from a Kansas farmer, as an illustrative example.  The elderly farmer, from the northeast part of the state sent a note of support commending the three-term Governor on his leadership during this tragic time.  “Doug” relayed that his wife had “but one lung,” and that the remaining lung was not fully healthy, so he was scared about the Covid-19 virus spreading across America.  He enclosed with his handwritten note, carefully penned on lined school paper, one N-95 masks, left over from his days as a farmer.  He asked that the Governor if it might be possible for him to share that single mask with a nurse or doctor in New York.  Cuomo’s response, after reading the note?  “How beautiful is that?”  Yes, Indeed.

I’ve long, long been an advocate of the virtues of written correspondence, including seemingly anonymous notes of thanks.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve sent gratitude letters to individuals well beyond my “station in life,” expressing my thanks for their good works, and I’ve been dumbfounded by the number of warm responses I’ve received from high-flyers in business, politics, and the nonprofit & philanthropy sector.  For instance, while in graduate school, I sent a thank-you letter to the Texas oil magnate Edward Bass, for whom my academic scholarship was named.  Mr. Bass had been a generous supporter of the school for some time.  Not only did he respond to me, but he confided, “I’ve given a lot of money to Yale, over the years, but this is the first time I’ve received a thank you note from a student.”   My heart soared!    I could share many wonderful exchanges like this, but it’s for another day.  All I know is that when I heard the Governor talk about what the notes mean to him, I decided to re-dedicate myself to sending letters of encouragement, to those who are bearing special burdens during the pandemic.

My goal is to write to one person each day, who is in the thick of this epidemic.  Although I realize that with the high degree of social distancing and sheltering in place, it is likely that the intended recipient may never see my note, but that’s okay.  I think that every good wish sent out into the universe emits an ever-so-small amount of positive energy.  My first “love letter” is to Massachusetts Senator and former Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.  She recently lost her oldest brother to the Covid-19 virus, so my card was not only one of thanks, but served as an offering of sympathies.  We really do need each other these days, in whatever little ways we can show up.

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