I saw this cartoon the other day. A group of people were cautiously opening a door by pushing it with a long-handle broom. The door had 2022 written on it and the caption read ‘2022 – We’re all gonna walk in real slow…’.
It’s funny in that way that we have learned to laugh at since the first wave of the pandemic. We have now entered the fifth wave and I remember the initial predictions of the health officials about the light at the end of the tunnel becoming more visible as we were riding that first wave. The light, we have since found out, keeps going out and tunnel’s end keeps getting farther and then closer again.
We’re back to finding ways to cope and trying to understand why we do the things we do, during a pandemic and otherwise. However, the pandemic is not our biggest problem. There’s also the threat of climate change, a gargantuan one if there ever was one.
Also, the reality of social injustices which includes local and global issues such as homelessness, slavery, human trafficking, appalling work conditions for those who keep supply chains functional with hard physical work (here in Canada included). All of these were made visible or more visible during the pandemic but we have yet to see them solved. It’s overwhelmingly sad and infuriating to know that those with the means to change things for the better choose not to because that’s not how newsworthy headlines and hashtags are created.
Despite all this and the occasional low level of trust in our collective ability to make it to the other side of this big, compounded mess, here’s what I have learned or been reminded of this year:
- That safety or the fear of losing it, both personal and at community level, can make us act in ways that are either commendable or reprehensible (we can each come up with countless examples of both).
- That kindness is still what ties as together and defines our humanity. It is expressed in a myriad of ways (this includes kindness towards animals,) and each one of these many ways makes a powerful statement about who we are, individually and together.
- That no matter how grim the events of the day, or month, or year, we can make it better or worse for our fellow humans. Yes, it’s about choices and it’s about how we treat each other. It’s about gratefulness for what is still there despite all. (I recommend perusing Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl for renewed perspective).
- That healthcare workers are the unsung heroes. During this pandemic, they facilitate painful goodbyes, break down after and rebuild themselves so they can show up the next day. Through it all, they keep imploring us all, again and again, to care about each other and about those most vulnerable among us.
- That we should not take our health, our planet, and each other for granted. But many of us still do. It’s been a year of devastation in British Columbia and in other parts of Canada and the world too: heat domes, floods, shifting weather patterns. We simply cannot afford more of that (or worse and more) and while searching for complicated solutions, here’s one staring us in the face: reduce the scale of consumption. Less is more.
- That having a roof over our heads and food on the table are privileges (they will become rights when everyone has them). If those who find themselves in a position of privilege helped (ideally the help should be proportional to one’s wealth), we would see less and less of the social injustices and human rights violation that are at this point rampant.
- That we have control only over our own actions and that may seem limiting but it’s not. It’s freedom: to learn to do better, to do better and to inspire others to do better. A circle of sorts.
- That the gifts that matter have to do with presence and time. Supply chain shortages will never apply here. In short: be present, even when it’s just yourself, and make the most of the time you have. Philosophically speaking, time may be infinite but not to us living creatures. We get but a fragment of it, hence the repeated reminder to not squander it.
- That knowledge is power. The war on who’s right and who’s wrong rages on – climate change and vaccination top the list. There is no absolute truth, that much we know, but learning more from reputable and verified sources catalyzes our journey towards a better outcome. Please read more, read to be informed, challenged, and read for the love of it. Books will make you a wiser, more compassionate, and humbler human, I promise.
- That is all starts and end with gratitude. When we are grateful, we create space for thoughtfulness, kindness, and yes, humbleness: a recipe for becoming better humans.
- That beauty and hope are found in nature and no devices or apps can ever break the connection we have with our natural world, whether we are aware of it or not.
What stood out for you in 2021? Will we remember and apply the lessons we have learned in the one that’s ending? Let’s hope so.
I wish you all a happier and kinder new year!