Of all the things to be thankful for this year, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines ought to be near the top of the list.

Their arrival earlier this year means a relatively normal Thanksgiving, or at least a bit more peace of mind for some staging holiday gatherings. At least that’s true compared to last year, when a pandemic that exploited our deepest social instincts spread misery and anxiety on a holiday meant to celebrate being together and grateful.

The novel coronavirus has taken so much from everyone, but this year we can be thankful for the silver lining it has given: perspective. Every year, Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice in the things we often take for granted. After last year, though, we all share a much more concrete sense of what it means to lose and to sacrifice so many things we hold dear. From that loss springs a much richer appreciation this year for gathering with loved ones under comparably normal circumstances.

We are thankful for the people, medical workers and community volunteers alike, whose work at the region’s vaccine clinics made this relative normalcy possible. Their tireless, life-giving efforts to protect their neighbors have made it safer for families to join and for grandparents to hug their grandchildren.

And their vital work is not yet finished, as youth vaccination clinics are now providing shots for kids ages 5 to 11 who have only recently become vaccine-eligible. We are all fortunate that these COVID vaccines were safely developed on such a short time scale, but the shots can’t get into arms without these vaccine clinic workers, so think of them at your Thanksgiving tables this year.

Dozens of volunteers packed boxes with frozen turkeys and all the trimmings for hundreds of less-fortunate households so they could cook their own Thanksgiving dinner. The Thanksgiving Angels' annual distribution on the Monday before the Thursday holiday is a collaboration of 19 faith-based groups that help collect the groceries and accept donations to pay for the largest one-day food distribution in Berkshire County.

We are also thankful for the thoughtful souls in our community who put food on the tables of their neighbors in need. Groups like the Thanksgiving Angels embody the Berkshire spirit of community and service at its best. This year, that charitable collaborative made the holiday a little brighter for 1,600 Pittsfield-area families.

Speaking of our community, as we enter the fray of holiday shopping season, we should show our thanks to the small businesses that make up the backbone of our local economy. Many of them have struggled mightily to survive protracted pandemic struggles, and buying from them is a gift that keeps on giving for the storefronts and shops that bring unique vitality to our downtowns and main streets in an increasingly Amazon-dominated world. And wherever you shop on Black Friday and beyond, remember that many retail businesses big and small are struggling to fill positions — which means the workers that are there are likely outgunned as they serve an overly stressed population at the busiest time of year in order to provide for their own families this holiday season. It costs nothing to be kind and understanding, and doing so will likely leave others more thankful in your wake.

As ever, we are deeply thankful for our readers.

The Eagle wishes all a happy Thanksgiving.