Effie Caldarola

It was the day after Halloween and just two days until Election Day. As a nation, we were marking milestones in our long national COVID-19 trudge.

Taking a neighborhood walk, I was struck by how fast Halloween decorations disappear. Here, for instance, was a driveway where a giant inflatable ghoul had hovered menacingly. Now, he had apparently gone to wherever ghouls spend the offseason.

But, then, surprisingly, I found a minion still standing, wearing a witch’s hat and an expression of abject terror. A minion is a little computer-animated comedy character, but this particular minion was anything but cheerful. When I mentioned this frightened inflatable to my daughter, she said, “Well, he’s probably terrified about the election.”

Ah, yes, Election Day. It seemed one thing united a divided nation: election apprehension. After the 2016 election, a priest friend told me he knew a psychiatrist who had to hospitalize a patient, so great was his postelection angst. Most of us weren’t that emotionally nettled, but I noted that dentists are seeing tooth grinding, cracking and clenching spiking lately.

Everyone prepared for a long night, only to find the night dragging on to several days. The huge voter turnout underscored the fact that few of us were ambivalent.

We are a nation of passionate partisans.

Now, amid increasing COVID-19 fears, we march on toward Thanksgiving with a new president-elect but no strong mandate for either side. How can we incorporate this most American of holidays into a journey of healing for our divided country?

All great spiritual writers tell us gratitude is a key to spiritual growth. Whining, anxiety and negativity are not.

So let’s use this period — our national festival of thanks, and then the joyous and expectant season of Advent that follows — to focus on gratitude.

My gratitude list includes appreciation for Americans, in record-breaking numbers, who made the effort to vote by mail, or like me, dropped their ballot at the county office. Or who stood in a long line in the midst of a pandemic to vote. Thanks to each one of you, whether you voted my way or not.

I am grateful that in these brutal times, good people still run for office, for positions great and small. I appreciate the people who worked on campaigns. I’m thankful for my friends who made phone calls for their candidates, including a relative who was occasionally cursed at for her efforts.

I’m thankful for those who mailed postcards to voters and those who displayed yard signs, including the ones with whom I disagreed.

Thank you to those brave citizens who volunteered, despite COVID-19, to work at the polls. Thank you to those who counted votes, for days, sometimes in the midst of harassment or even threats. Thank you to poll watchers, observers and state officials who made this election a model of honesty and efficiency.

Thanks to voters who studied all the ballot issues right down to the local utility district elections.

Kudos to those who fought for more polling stations and greater voter access.

Democracy can’t survive without a strong free press. To journalists, my deepest appreciation. For those Americans who kept an open mind, eschewed conspiracy theories and sought their news from many and credible sources? You are our civic backbone.

To those who refrained from making unkind, personal remarks on social media: bless you. To those — voter, candidate or office holder — who never, ever called anyone names, thanks.

For a future of hope and civility for our nation in the struggle ahead, we are grateful and ask God to bless us.