January 2021 - The year 2020 has been called many (bad) names: dumpster fire, exhausting, year of infamy, a fresh new hell at every turn. But it will especially be known as the year that will forever be etched in every conscious mind that lived through it. It is the one year that humankind, for several months, felt utterly powerless from the havoc that COVID-19 wrought. No matter what you did or where you turned, the virus was there.

Year 2020 stopped us in our tracks: it disrupted all things “normal”, but it was also transformative. We were all forced to stop, reflect, and consider how to go on with life in ways we’ve never considered before. It was an entire year of learning.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC Provincial Health Officer, taught us to be kind, be calm and be safe.

We learned that we could take care of each other even when we thought we could no longer give.

If you needed help and looked for it, you found it – sometimes in the most unexpected time and place from the most unexpected people.

We learned that faith is the spiritual place that will always welcome you and that the church is not the building but a community of believers who believe in not just a God but in each other’s humanity.

We learned that heroes look nothing like cartoon or movie characters. They look like you and me, definitely with a facemask but also maybe wearing scrubs or a uniform or an apron. She could be your next-door neighbour or the donor that gave her last $10 to a food bank. We learned that you and I are each other’s cheerleaders and that we are truly in this together.

Like humans establishing a city in a planet other than Earth, we learned to adapt in this new environment.  Business owners ran their businesses having safety protocols in place. Takeout and delivery became the norm for most restaurants. Office workers quickly learned to use virtual apps to accomplish tasks and attend meetings. Zoom and Facebook messengers are now must-haves in keeping in touch with friends and family near or far, young and old.

We learned that children could teach adults a thing or two about acts of kindness. Kids, as young as four years old, organized fundraisers and care packages, most of them inspiring everyone else upon learning that the seed money came from these kids’ piggy banks. Children manifest the goodness in basic humanity that is pure and untainted by doubt, fear, and hopelessness. Indeed, our children show us that the future is still bright.

As we experienced death and suffering in unprecedented levels, we learned that life is indeed short and that we must not put off what we can do today. We learned to be more generous with our “sorry” and “thanks.”

We learned that even with the pandemic striking fear in everyone’s hearts, evil continues to rear its ugly head in hate crimes, corruption in government, chaos in vaccine distribution and racial injustice.

Wealth, hierarchy, privilege, and power mean nothing when you are faced with a virus infection but do carry a lot of weight when it comes to access to health care and medicine. We may all be in the same storm, but we are in very different boats. Case in point –the vaccine will be available to everyone in Canada but currently not in the Philippines where there is confusion in both vaccine acquisition and distribution. The disparity between rich and poor became even more palpable.

And so we know that even with a fresh start in the new year, we simply cannot let our guards down. The pandemic may have taken our attention away from other crises like climate change and food insecurity, but it also heightened and made these crises even worse.

Year 2021 may bring with it nothing special as we will probably still find ourselves continuing to practice safety protocols in this new world of face masks, physical distancing, and constant hand sanitizing. But we can still be excited about the new  year.  Year 2020 has armed us with valuable life lessons that whatever uncertainty the new year may bring, we will dive into it headfirst, not with hesitation but with an unwavering faith in a future that will once again have us physically hugging, kissing, and holding each other’s hands- no longer separated by screen monitors or plastic barriers.

By Rachel Ramos-Reid
For the CFNet Editorial Board
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