I write this column on Thanksgiving, the best of all American holidays. Family, food and thankfulness (and possibly a nap)—nothing objectionable, all good. But this year I celebrate without my extended family and without a turkey. So I’ll focus on the thankfulness.
We live in surreal times. If you’d read about the state of the world in 2020 this time last year, you’d think you’d stumbled on a science fiction novel. I want to spend this column in thanks of the solidarity and assistance we all have received during this difficult time. My friend, architect Tomaz Schlegl, is sending out a thank-you card of his own to people he feels are deserving of thanks but rarely receive it. Nurses, doctors, volunteers. It’s a lovely idea for a Christmas gift—how often do people receive a heartfelt “thank you” for their efforts, and from a stranger? I would like to return the favor and thank Tomaz. Though you might not know it, he has been a crusader for elevating Kamnik’s profile, tourism and status as a cultural center. He is the Slovenian architect with the most ingenious and beautiful unbuilt projects. Because he focuses on urban planning, his wonderful projects are rarely built because they take outside thinking and courage on the part of bureaucratic administrations—which are often scared to do something bold and noteworthy. And so he creates, designs, pours his soul into projects that are rarely completed. He is the sort of behind-the-scenes good spirit who loves our region (his designs have almost been built in all the areas covered by Modre Novice, most recently a complete plan to remake the center of Menges and various plans for Kamnik) and who deserves an award for well-meaning service. If you only knew the ingenious designs he has come up with, only for administrations to get “cold feet” and decide not to implement them, you would roll your eyes and think to yourself, “Oh, what a shame, that would have been amazing.” And it would have. We are wasting one of Slovenia’s most talented creators. He was the inspiration for this column.
For me to thank, in general, nurses and doctors, feels too general but also just right. While we complain about not being able to have picnic parties with our friends, our brilliant healthcare system is working at its usual world-class level, with medical workers risking their own health and even lives to help others. Their heroism makes any complaints about changes in our daily routine and social lives seem very silly and petty.
I am thankful for these changes. Provided no one close to us gets severely ill, we will likely look back at the 2020 time in isolation as one with a silver lining. I have never spent more time with my children. Though it can be complicated moment to moment, imagine fast-forwarding to this time next year, when the vaccine should be out and Covid-19 peripheral. I will look back at this year as a beautiful time of nesting with my immediate family. Time is the most precious thing we have and it tumbles past us so quickly. Time has slowed down this year. We feel that days “stuck at home” are so long. I’m glad they feel “so long.” Instead of life passing us by, we’ve all been shifted to slow motion. Why not savor this, instead of pushing against it to no avail?
Globally, as an American, I’m thankful for the outcome of the recent election, though I remain dismayed and ashamed about what my country has become. This is a step in the right direction, but the mess that is America makes me very glad that I live in Slovenia.
Locally, I’ve become grateful to the people who are just doing their normal work, but the very act of which becomes heroic if there is risk of infection everywhere. Postmen, cooks, pharmacists—they continue to go to work and provide the services we need, even though each interaction carries an invisible risk.
I’m thankful also for those who deliver. I haven’t stepped inside a grocery store since March because of the free delivery offered by many companies, large and small. I can get delivery from Zlata Pticka (www.zlatapticka.si), coffee from Crno Zrno (www.crnozrno.com), products from local farmers who now deliver what was once available only at farmer’s markets. I have even found more exotic fare that I order regularly, such as Asian groceries from Asia Supermarket (www.asia-supermarket.si), and Russian specialties from Ruska Trgovina (www. ruskatrgovina.si)—you have yet to live if you have not tried their smoked sable (prekajena maslenka).
A special thanks goes to Ramadan Ahmetaj of Kamnik’s Tropika, where I like to get my fruit and vegetables. He stayed open and made sure that we could find food even when supermarkets were closing. He is a quiet type of hero. He’s just doing his job, but he’s doing it at a time when “just doing your job” counts as heroic.
Doing all of your jobs these days counts as heroic. I’m thankful to you for being as safe and hygienic as possible in a time when that does not only protect you but protects all of us. And for all of you parents out there, you deserve particular thanks. This has the potential to be a golden time for families being together. We may be “stuck” together, which might not always feel easy, but time with family is the most precious thing we have. And it is the inadvertent “gift” of the pandemic that we have more of it.
Now, if only I could get a giant turkey…
Check out Noah's latest book, Superpower Your Kids: A Professor's Guide To Teaching Children Everything in Just 15 Minutes a Day, or consider treating yourself to a copy of Slovenology, his guide to life in Slovenia.