Here's What I Think About That

Looking Back, Looking Ahead


Our longtime friends walked the country mile between us to deliver good cheer and connect on Christmas Eve.

Nestled inside the small gift bag they brought was the crown jewel of northwest summers at peak perfection, lovingly preserved in the form of homemade jam. The sweet burst of intense flavor from homegrown strawberries is just this side of heaven on Earth. It’s a precious treasure in wintertime delivering a powerful reminder that the warmth of the sun will return.

We kept our distance outside. We talked nonstop for nearly 20 minutes. We shed sloppy tears and shared laughter too, before conceding it was too cold and damp to continue. It felt good to be together and it left a yearning for more. After waving goodbye, they each pulled out plastic garbage bags stashed in their pockets to gather the latest crop of roadside litter on their way home.

There is much outside our control as individuals but we persevere by doing what we can each day. And when we do something considerate for someone else or because it simply needs doing, we feel better ourselves. We reach out. People reach back. We connect.

The year 2020 was “exhausting.” It may take a few choice words to get it just right but saying them aloud feels better.

As the year unfolded things grew crazy fast on multiple fronts. There were times I shoved down feelings I could not cope with. I can feel them in the pit of my stomach right now.

It was a year the likes of which few have known outside the pages of history and lingering family lore from the Great Depression.

We have a public health emergency: Everyone is affected by COVID-19, regardless of age, race sex, religion or politics. The virus doesn’t care who we are, where we live or what we think.

The danger of politicizing public health continues at our collective peril. The collateral damage inflicted by endless political campaigns eroded civil discourse. It has become common to think of people with different opinions from ourselves as enemies.

Antithetical to individualism, such is the challenge to accept our part in the greater whole and act accordingly.

Armed by science, we are well on the way to winning the fight against COVID-19 with vaccinations already being given to first responders and front-line health care workers.

But it will be months before there is enough vaccine to inoculate everyone. There will certainly be people who will refuse vaccination against COVID-19. It remains unclear whether a person who has been vaccinated will still be capable of transmitting the virus to others who have not.

We don’t know how this will play out. But we do know that vaccinations will not bring an end to pandemic restrictions right away. In order for restrictions to loosen, the number of active cases must drop considerably.

Locally there were some small business ventures that called it quits before the end of first quarter 2020, unrelated to the pandemic. Other local businesses booked their best year with record earnings. And hopeful new entrepreneurs opened during the pandemic as well.

Relentless challenges related to COVID-19 continue for owners and employees of traditional dining establishments and bars. Once thriving and popular locally owned businesses, before the novel coronavirus struck, continue to struggle under new pandemic restrictions.

The ongoing economic fallout has also been relentless for many families struggling to make ends meet. Young couples just getting by with double incomes have been forced to make the decision that one parent at home is essential.

Beginning in the second week of December, there was a leveling in the rise of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pierce County. After spring, summer and fall of 2020, many families could tolerate the lengthy separation no more and gathered for winter holidays together against the recommendations of public health officials who strongly advised against travel and any holiday gatherings that included members from multiple households. Now we expect another rise in cases and extended restrictions.

As much as we loathe wearing them, masks continue to offer the best protection against further spread of the virus until many millions of people are vaccinated. Remain focused. Be diligent in social distancing. Wear a mask in public. Wash your hands frequently.

The end is in sight. We can do this for each other. And we can probably stop complaining about it too. It is 2021 after all. We may as well try something new.