I sympathize with business owners experiencing supply chain problems, I really do. It must be frustrating to lack inventory just as consumers are buying for the holiday season.

My first paid job was in a toy store. I recall the tsunami of demand that washed through the aisles from mid-November forward. And to hear that fresh and frozen turkey may be in short supply in some parts of the United States? Well, that’s annoying. Consumers have already seen food prices climb. This year’s traditional Thanksgiving treats will probably cost a bit more than they did last year, too. Not surprising, but not a happy thought. There are families struggling to make ends meet, and this is one more challenge.

Now, have we finished the lamentations? Whatever the global supply chain challenges, I just can’t quite see them ruining the holiday season. Not this year. Not a chance. Retail inventory is low? Buy a gift card, or, better yet, buy a local alternative present because mom-and-pop stores in your own neighborhood need your patronage the most.

Somehow, I think Amazon will be just fine whether they can deliver Barbie, Ken or their dream house on time. Whatever the “hot” item of the season, it can wait. It’s just stuff. Many a Dec. 25 rolled around when my own kids played more with the cardboard boxes the gifts came in than the items that had been on their wish lists for weeks.

And the price of turkey? Here’s a question: Who actually likes turkey? The statistics suggest not many. Consumption of chicken dwarfs turkey and not just in the U.S. And hey, Thanksgiving is really about the relatively low-cost side dishes like dressing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. Substitute a roaster. Or not. Maybe this is the year of the “Tofurky” vegetarian option. I don’t judge. Well, I do, but I’m trying to be polite about it.

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My point is this: I’m excited about the holiday season. And not just because the Christmas displays arrived in the local shopping center before the Halloween candy was even purchased this year. Or because my mailbox is filled with catalogs — as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy could at least get that much right. Or because “hot” holiday gift ideas are swirling around the media (including for “wellness enthusiasts”; a major hot yoga thanks for that, New York Times). No, it’s because a year ago we were still self-isolating without a single dose of vaccine in a single arm in my home. Family gatherings were off the agenda. It wasn’t an especially joyous season. Have we forgotten so soon?

Last year, COVID-19 caused holidays to be subdued, video conferenced, distant and apart. This year there still may be a bit of that but what a difference a year makes. We’re all fully vaccinated — assuming Uncle Dave isn’t trying to pull an Aaron “I’m immunized” Rodgers on us. We’re going to be sharing. We’re going to see more of our friends and relatives. Our hearts are light. Sorry but the sight of all those cargo ships waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles just can’t kill the joy — although it would be nice if someone would make sure their crews have a decent meal on Thanksgiving. Same with the truck drivers lined up waiting for shipments. They deserve it.

The point of the holidays has never been about the material. Not really. It’s been about gratitude and love and caring for others. In our household, we always consult a certain well-known book around this time of year. And no, it’s not the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Gita or the Tripitaka although they speak to the subject matter as well, We like to pull out “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. His lesson: First, that a dog named Max can be trained to do some amazing things. And second, and most importantly, that Christmas (and, by extension, the best parts of the other holidays that roll around this time of year) don’t “come from a store” and do, indeed, “mean a little bit more.”

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s not to take our existence for granted. Not one precious minute of it. The virus has taken more than 750,000 American lives. Globally, last year alone may have cost 28 million extra years of human life (by measuring the age of the deceased versus their normal life expectancy), according to one recent study. Perhaps it is still too easy to forget that. Perhaps it’s too easy to get caught up in the latest political controversy instead. Or worries about Wall Street profits. Or wish lists. And maybe, like the Grinch, we need to be reminded of what is really great about this time of year. And it can’t be found in ribbons or wrappings, tinsel or trappings or even in cargo containers.

Tofu Roast Beast, anyone?

Peter Jensen is an editorial writer at The Sun; he can be reached at pejensen@baltsun.com.

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