by Kimberly Durden, Contributing Writer, Chicago Defender
For many, 2020 was to be the year of clear vision and focus. Entrepreneurs planned for this year to be their greatest year yet. People made goals to live their best life: obtaining better overall health and wellness, traveling more, taking more risks, earning more money, etc. But then, COVID-19 completely changed the trajectory of the lives of millions of people. Simultaneously, the trifecta of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd received global attention. These murders and the shooting of Jacob Blake received worldwide attention and produced a mass influx of social unrest. Streets filled with both protesters and looters across the country.
Right now, coronavirus cases and deaths are increasing at record-breaking numbers daily. People are struggling financially and losing jobs. There does not seem to be any help in sight for businesses in trouble. To add to the stress, a “tug-of-war” is happening in the White House weeks after the Presidential election. 2020 has shown us the true meaning of the famous statement, “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
With all the turmoil and turbulence of 2020, it is understandable that some may find it difficult, almost impossible, to be grateful this year. The inspiring stories of four Chicago women will provide you with a new perspective on gratitude. These women were directly impacted by the same issues many of us have faced this year – sicknesses, death, grief, loss, and struggles. For each of them, gratitude is the best remedy for healing and moving on in their lives.
Patricia Boseman is a mother and grandmother who moved from Chicago to Texas in 2015 with her daughter, son in love, and two grandchildren. January 2020 was the last time she saw her 86-year-old mother, who still lives on Chicago’s southside. In August, she lost her cousin, Chadwick Boseman, who battled colon cancer for four years this year. On November 1, she suffered a terrible fall that fractured her arm. To keep her sister, who has lupus, and her mom safe, she will not travel to Chicago this Thanksgiving because of the pandemic. This is difficult because her mom fell ill and was hospitalized for two weeks.
“I have experienced some losses and struggles this year, but I’m still alive and well. I am so grateful for my only child – my daughter and her husband. I never planned to stay with them this long after moving in with them in 2015, but God has a way of making our plans align with His purpose for our lives. Being here, I can watch my grandchildren grow up. I get to see them every day – my granddaughter, who is “my sunshine,” and my grandson, who is “my heartbeat.” It feels so good to be in a home where I am wanted and needed. And as a bonus, I get to spend quality time with my daughter. I am so thankful for them. I miss my mom and her hugs so much. I want to lay eyes on her. I am grateful we will be able to keep with our Thanksgiving tradition this year. Our family will get together via Zoom to share recipes and take turns sharing why we are so grateful.”
Sirrena Courts-Woodard is a wife and mother of a son who left for college this year. She contracted COVID-19 and double pneumonia on April 2, 2020. Hospitalized for 53 days, she was placed on a ventilator and attached to an ECMO machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine).
“Many days, I felt like this was my last day. I felt death. I saw death angels. I did not understand why God kept me alive when so many people did not make it. He had other plans. Through this experience, God reminded me to ‘trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not to my understanding. In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths’ (The Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6). This year is different. I am more appreciative of the things I took for granted, like waking up in the morning and doing my hair.
Contracting COVID-19 changed all of that for me. Things that I could do every day without even thinking twice about, I could no longer do. After God brought me through COVID and everything else, I am grateful for every moment.
Athena Harshaw, a USPS worker for over 25 years, is a mother, grandmother, entrepreneur, and essential worker. On January 30, 2020, she was shot in the head while sleeping in her bed in her home. She faced deep emotional trauma from this incident that could have taken her life. As an essential worker, she also returned to work during the most dangerous times of her career. She continues delivering mail during civil unrest, violence, riots, lootings, and a pandemic.
“I am grateful to be here to be alive. My gratitude has leveled up. I am now grateful for the simplest things. God had done so much for me, and I do my best to show my appreciation by giving to others. I am a natural giver, so it has never been a problem for me to give. God gave me another chance. I promised Him I would thank Him every day. I said I would share my testimony and His goodness. Period.”
Lolita Scott is a wife, mother, Daycare owner, and essential worker. In November 2019, she was diagnosed with stage 3 neck and throat cancer. Her business and finances suffered due to the pandemic. Then after 25 years, her husband was laid off from his job. In October, they both contracted coronavirus.
“We both contracted COVID. Our finances are limited due to the lack of children in my daycare. We were dealing with my
cancer and the loss of my husband’s job. Thankfully, we were still able to pay all of our bills. My family stepped in in ways I could never imagine. My husband supported me through my cancer battle like you would not believe. There were times, of course, when I wanted to give up. I am so thankful to God for sparing my life. Many people get this disease both [throat and neck cancer and COVID], but I lived through it. I give all praise to my Lord and Savior.”
Each of these women chose to be grateful. They each decided to enjoy and appreciate every moment – good, bad, ugly, great, and small.
“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.” – Unknown.
Kim Durden is a food blogger and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours, the first and only entirely Black, woman-owned food tour agency in Chicago. Visit her website at https://www.divinedine.online/. Follow and like her on Facebook and Instagram, @divinedinefoodietours.