I love the Thanksgiving service when the congregation sings “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” and “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.” Usually, the congregation presents canned goods and items for those in need. This year will be different.

If we follow the advice given by medical experts, we will neither gather for the service nor for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Our family’s normal tradition includes 12 to 15 gathered to enjoy community, with a serving table groaning with turkey and dressing, collard greens, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, other sides, and lots of delicious cakes and pies. COVID-19 advice says we should limit our celebration to those immediate family members who live under the same roof. At the speed COVID is spreading, my wife and I decided to heed their advice, but none of us are pleased about it.

Every year I think back to the fable we heard in school about how the Pilgrims, happy to have survived that first year in America, gathered in grateful appreciation. Looking at current events on my television (and even in my own community) it is obvious that many aren’t very grateful. But we should be.

This coronavirus is the worst epidemic we have experienced in our lifetimes. A quarter million Americans and 5,000 North Carolinians have died from it. We all know people who have had it, been put in ICU on ventilators or worse. Those of us who have escaped it – especially we who are considered “high risk” – need to be thankful.

Some either don’t accept the seriousness of COVID-19 or don’t care about others, as evidenced by the fact they refuse to take simple precautions that would prevent the rampant community spread. How hard is it to wear a face covering to protect not only yourself but those with whom you come in contact? I don’t understand why people have so little concern for others.

Yes, I’ve heard the claims that these precautions violate their personal freedoms and they don’t want to be told what to do. Yet these same people drive in the right-hand lane, stop at traffic lights and observe any number of regulations and rules imposed for the common good. But wearing a face covering? Really? It is time we collectively call bullhockey on these lame excuses.

Here’s the point. We went through a period where we were effectively shut down and it was burdensome. Many North Carolinians didn’t agree with the restrictions and don’t think we have relaxed them enough, but when I look at what many other states are encountering – including some that are shutting down again – I am thankful for the approach our state took and for our conservative, if sometimes unpopular, approach. If we don’t want that to happen again the very least we can do is wear a face covering, keep distance from others and wash our hands.

How big a sacrifice is that? I haven’t eaten in a restaurant, attended a movie theatre or church service since March and have as much coronavirus fatigue as anyone. But I am convinced that to return to those days and restore our economy we must lick this virus.

We are hopeful, and yes thankful, that the two vaccines we hear so much about will be available soon. But it likely won’t get to most of us until spring or summer next year. What happens in the meantime? We’ve come too far to return to March restrictions. The best way to avoid a return is to wear that mask.

There won’t be much “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” this year, but we still have much for which to be thankful. And maybe next year we can all enjoy the Thanksgiving traditions we love.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues that airs on UNC-TV. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.