A Season of Gratitude
The Honorable Donald A. Myers, Jr.
Chief Judge, Ninth Judicial Circuit Court
Chief’s Column // The Briefs // July 2020, Vol. 88 No. 6
July may mark the middle of the calendar year, but it also marks – for better or for worse – the start of the holiday season. Any second now, posts will begin to come through our social media feeds announcing how many days until Christmas. Marketers will leap over a stream of smaller summer holidays, sidestep Halloween, and completely ignore Thanksgiving in a mad dash to grab those early shopping dollars.
Under normal circumstances, I would pay all of this no mind. July marks the middle of summer and the height of summer vacations. Social media feeds should be full of summertime gatherings. Beach days and pool parties. Backyard barbeques and sidewalk cafés. Family and friends and good times. But these aren’t normal circumstances and summer 2020 looks nothing like summers past.
At the start of the year, I could never have imagined how COVID-19 would shape the way we move through the world. It has changed the fabric of our interactions and intrinsically altered how I approach almost everything in my life, including this idea of holidays out of season. Lest I give you the wrong idea here, I’m not looking to get a head start on my online Christmas shopping. Truth be told, Christmas is still the last thing on my mind. Thanksgiving, however, and its season of gratitude, is a completely different story.
I like to think of myself as a grateful person, and I don’t think I am speaking out of turn to say that this is likely true for many, if not all, of you as well. And, that makes me wonder if you are feeling the same shift in gratitude that I am feeling. Living through these times, I can tell you that I have not felt the depths of true gratitude and appreciation more poignantly than I do right now.
Suddenly dropping out of the rhythm and cadence of normal life brought into sharp focus exactly what I am most grateful for and hold dear. And, in no uncertain terms, I am most grateful for people. For those moments when happenstance affords me an unexpected evening with friends. For casual conversations with colleagues in courtrooms and chambers. For long summer days spent on the water with family. I am grateful for every packed bar luncheon, every award ceremony, every investiture. For the thriving hive of people in the rotunda of the courthouse, jurors camped out in the jury room, lawyers crowded in hallways. Since the signing of the state’s stay-at-home order on what should have been an ordinary March day, my appreciation and gratitude for what now feels like sacred moments in the company of family and friends, colleagues and the court community has grown exponentially.
COVID-19 and its restrictions haven’t just augmented my feelings of gratitude for the people with whom I share my days. It has pulled people out of the periphery of my existence, placed them center stage, and highlighted just how integral they are to my life. And, if we were truly celebrating Thanksgiving in July, and I had the privilege to sit once again at a packed table with my wife and children and grandchildren, with extended family and friends who are family – I would raise my glass in gratitude and thank each and every farmer, butcher, grocer, cook, and waiter. All of the warehouse workers, cashiers, drivers, delivery persons, and cleaning crews. Medical professionals, therapists, police officers, EMTs, firefighters. All the people who make our lives easier, safer, better. All of the people whose efforts and sacrifices I have too easily taken for granted for way too long.
I don’t know when we can all be in close company again – when we can come together and share how COVID-19 has reshaped our appreciation for the world and the incredible people who inhabit it. But I am not inclined to wait for that day. Instead, I invite you to celebrate Thanksgiving in July with me. To nurture this grateful heart and reframe the summer season as a season of gratitude. Let us raise our glasses every day in mindful appreciation of the people in our lives and how rich our lives truly are because of them. And, please, allow me to start with the first toast – thank you, all of you, for your dedication to the law, to our courts, and our community. Thank you for making people’s lives better.
The Honorable Donald A. Myers, Jr., chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, was elected to the Circuit Court for Orange and Osceola counties in 2010 and has been an OCBA member since 1980.