Thanksgiving is a holiday built around the universal theme of gratitude. It comes without the burden of giving gifts, without any prescribed religious observance, focusing instead on sharing a meal and being thankful, two mutually reinforcing activities.
Many of us are fortunate enough to celebrate with those we love, and have the opportunity to express our gratitude to them for all the ways in which they support us and give us reasons to be grateful.
Nevertheless, it can be a challenging holiday for many physicians.
There is balancing the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends with the continuing obligation to provide coverage and be there for patients unfortunate enough to be in the grip of illness during the holiday. There is helping patients and families who have suffered losses or who are experiencing the holiday in the hospital or with unabated suffering at home to cope with a time when others are celebrating and they are grieving. Somehow on Thanksgiving, we always end up taking care of a patient’s relative who had traveled far to celebrate only to be overcome with one or another acute illness.
Being a doctor on Thanksgiving confronts us simultaneously with how much we have to be thankful for and how many of those we care for will struggle to find gratitude of their own.
It is a privilege to be a physician, a trusted guide for those who rely on us to do our best for them every day. In my 30 years of community practice, I was struck by how often patients used the holiday as an opportunity to thank all of us who cared for them. They brought cards and baked goods, and found other ways to express gratitude for what we did.
I wish all of you a restful and restorative holiday, hoping you will have the opportunity to appreciate how many are grateful for what we collectively do and find some space for our own gratitude that we are able to make so much difference in the world of so many.