2020. The year that seems to go on forever, gave us a worldwide pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and near economic collapse. While most people are eager to get 2020 in the rearview mirror and embrace 2021 with hope and optimism, I would like to point out that there are often silver linings in these crisis that can help us as we move forward.
Like so many of you, as I was celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I was reflecting on the blessings in my life. While 2020 has clearly not been a blessing, I do want to thank this year for the following:
- The amount of civic engagement in our nation is at an all-time high. Just look at this month’s voter turnout numbers. Yes- much of this was created by chaotic and divisive politics, but I chose to focus on the fact that people now know their vote matters! This will only help us moving forward as a nation.
- We know that teachers and schools matter. Even as the debate rages on about whether students should be physically in school or logging in virtually, everyone agrees that public education is vital to our communities, families, and nation. Yes- right now public education is in a state of crisis, but that means that our attention is on it. Hopefully that will translate into supporting public education with funding and resources.
- We’ve discovered there really is No Place Like Home. As the world shut down just a few months into this year, we retreated into our homes. We isolated, quarantined, and our social circles shrank. Yes- many of the things that were purged from our calendars we miss and look forward to doing again, but this gave us time to nest. We baked bread, planted gardens, built bookshelves. We read, wrote, listened to music. We worked from home when we could and invested our time and energy in making our homes fit our needs. Even when this pandemic is a thing of the past, this strengthened sense of home will serve us well.
- The underlying systemic racism in our nation has been uncovered. For Americans of color, this is nothing new, but for much of white America, we never fully understood the magnitude or horror of the kinds of obstacles, hostility, and violence that our black friends and family dealt with every single day. Our own experiences informed our beliefs. Yes- it is painful to realize that our wonderful country is not living up to its promise, but recognizing and admitting that something exists is the first step to addressing it. It is always darkest before the light. Perhaps we are on the brink of truly living up to our ideals.
- Our technology tools have allowed us to connect in ways unimagined a few years ago. As people worked from home, met virtually, and gathered on-line, we realized that connecting with others, even in the midst of a pandemic, is essential. Yes- traditional gatherings and celebrations became high risk situations for our most vulnerable, but we figured out ways to recognize milestones and accomplishments from a distance.
While there is much of 2020 that should fade into oblivion, there are also many lessons and gifts it bestowed on us. For that, I am Thankful.