THANKSGIVING DAY, even in the best of times, is notable for two things that usually have little, if anything, in common.

It’s a day to give thanks. It’s also the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Although 2020 has scrambled so many American traditions, this year offers a natural intersection between thankfulness and commerce.

In the midst of a global pandemic, as most people feel they have little control over what’s happening, we still can control how we support local businesses and local charities. Buying or donating within our home community becomes an investment in a return to the normal times we so desperately want.

National surveys indicate that most people still will shop this year for Christmas, Hanukkah or a variety of other celebrations. Those surveys also indicate that many people buy for themselves at this time of year, seeking out good deals on merchandise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has battered many local businesses. There were closures early in the year. Then as the shops and restaurants reopened, a limited number of customers returned. Revenues were down. Some businesses have closed. Others are hanging on, but may face hard decisions if things don’t improve.

By shopping locally, customers can “pay it forward” and help businesses weather this financial storm. The local economy of the next few years will be shaped by today’s decisions – thousands of individual decisions – to support our neighbors.

For those who still prefer to shop in person, store personnel have been cleansing carts and surfaces to reduce the chances of contracting the virus. Staff members are usually wearing masks and many stores check employees for fever or other symptoms.

So you’ve been buying online, rather than in stores? That’s not a problem.

Many of our local merchants have online shopping options. In other cases, buyers can support that hometown restaurant by calling in or stopping by to get a gift certificate that entitles the recipient to a meal. And if safety is still a consideration, the meal can be picked up or delivered.

Charities also are struggling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on nonprofits. Fundraising campaigns have been postponed or canceled at a time when more people are in need due to the coronavirus, job losses or the stress of isolation.

The need truly has never been greater.

Those familiar Salvation Army buckets are still manned by bell ringers at some stores. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the number of shoppers in those stores is down this year.

The United Way fundraising campaigns are underway and the agencies they support are dealing with a virtual tidal wave of requests for assistance.

There are online and phone-in options for giving to many of these charities as well. And since these donations stay local, they change the lives of our neighbors, coworkers and family members.

We encourage everyone who can to shop locally and give locally when possible. If you don’t have the money to help out, please consider giving your time and efforts to worthy causes. Volunteers are needed by many organizations.

Whatever your plans are this holiday season, let’s help our neighbors as much as we can by shopping and giving locally.

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