Even though the practically empty Times Square on New Years Eve seemed to suggest otherwise, the countdown to New Year was probably one of the happiest for many of us. 2020 has been an unusual and challenging year in so many ways, bringing on us the global pandemic, economic shutdowns, health concerns, the mixed blessing of working from home, inability to travel not only outside of the country, but pretty much outside of the neighborhood - and this is just scratching the surface. Many people lost their jobs and their loved ones. Many people courageously risked - and lost - their lives on the frontlines, making sure the essential jobs are being done. Many people were and are struggling to pay rent. Counting down to the beginning of 2021 was a symbol of hope that this coming year would be better. We can only imagine all the wishes and resolutions made.
Yet, perhaps, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on everything we learned this past year. Guided by social distancing and self-isolation, we had a unique opportunity to spend more time by ourselves or with people within our household and to rely on hobbies we could engage in without leaving the house. We have recognized the sacrifices of essential workers we might have previously taken for granted: taxi/bus drivers, train conductors, cashiers, restaurant workers and other people who couldn't work from home and who put long hours into delivering us the essentials we needed. We have gotten accustomed to wearing masks in crowded public spaces, the habit that seems to be here to stay even after the pandemic is officially over. 2020 was the year when time stopped, allowing us to examine ourselves, the society we live in and people we encounter on a daily basis. Placed under the metaphorical magnifying glass, our virtues and flaws became clearer, for better or worse.
As we look forward to "going back to normal," we have to admit: life will never be the same again after 2020. When the clock of time starts ticking again, it will mark the beginning of a new era, and it is up to each and every one of us to make sure we come out of this experience as better people than we were before. We have to recognize that there is healing to be done, and we need to show kindness and empathy towards ourselves and others. As 2020 taught us, life is priceless and fragile, and it cannot be taken for granted. As it also taught us, we are stronger when we are together and when we help each other. Let us take these positive lessons with us into the new year and use them as building blocks, on which our future will rest.