By Jordan DeWald

2020, what a year. Enough has happened in this one year that future history teachers could focus an entire course on 2020 alone. The year has held it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We all know the bad, and we all have seen the ugly. We’ve seen it all over the news, within our own social circles, and in our communities. So let’s end the year focusing on the good. I don’t know about you, but I am grateful for any reminders of it.

Recognition of Real Heroes

The picture of a hero changed in 2020. The people who sacrificed, who acted for the greater good, and who made our everyday life easier got the recognition they have deserved for years. Healthcare workers worked endless hours in scary and dangerous situations, causing them to isolate from their families. Towns lit up, applause rang out at shift changes, and even a fly-by was made by the Blue Angels to thank these heroes.

Teachers were granted the respect they’ve long deserved once parents experienced their kids at home all day, every day. It was finally recognized that teachers not only chose to be around more than twenty kids at a time all day, but they managed to impart wisdom and get them to sit still while doing it. Parents learned quickly what a challenge that is! Teachers quickly adapted to virtual teaching and continuing to help their students in any way possible. When the new year started, they adjusted to brand new situations and took on more responsibilities.

The people who kept the store shelves stocked, who made deliveries to homes of people who couldn’t get out, and who went to work with the public at a risky time made our lives continue as normally as possible. They endured frustrated customers and worked extra hours to keep food and necessities available for people in their community.

These are everyday people, our neighbors. They earned the applause and accolades of being the heroes of 2020 simply by doing the job they have always done. They were given the title of “essential.” That title doesn’t end with a pandemic. Let’s continue to recognize the people who make our society function and flourish.

Support of Local Businesses

For business owners, 2020 was likely one of the most stressful years they’ve ever faced. Shutdowns, restricted capacities, changes to operations, and concerns about paying employees were just the tip of the iceberg. But the strength of a resilient small business owner showed through. They adapted, often multiple times, to still take care of their clients and customers. Our local community had a renewed push to support these businesses. They saw their neighbors struggling and jumped in to help. In Burleson, this emphasis was spearheaded by the work of the Economic Development team, the Burleson Area Chamber of Commerce, and leaders in the community. A team was quickly assembled to come up with ideas to keep the Burleson businesses afloat resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in gift cards sold, grants for small businesses, thousands of meals purchased from local restaurants, and a unified effort to promote the local businesses on social media. Crowley, and its chamber, also offered spotlights on local businesses and provided grants for their businesses. People rallied around their local businesses like never before. Facebook groups were created to promote places to eat locally. I know many people who made a concerted effort to only get to-go food from local restaurants. I was asked about where someone could shop or eat locally more often in the early months of the pandemic than I ever had. This was a wonderful movement to see unfold. The local businesses are the heart of our community, and what contributes to the character of our towns. Please do not slow in that momentum because businesses are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic, and will for a long time. Continue to consider first what local restaurant you can order from, what local service to utilize, and what local shop to buy from.

A Time to Refocus

Almost without warning, schedules were cleared. Extra-curricular activities ended, working from home became the norm, and going out for errands and activities became limited. Home became the landing zone for everything- school, work, church, and entertainment. For some this was maddening but for others, this was a time for resetting and refocusing. I am guilty of a busy schedule, similar to many families in the same life stage as mine. While working and doing school from home brought challenges, and we all needed breaks from each other at times, my family embraced the unrushed time together. I jumped on the trampoline with my kids to destress from the day, instead of taking one to practice and collapsing at the end of the day. My daughter and I cooked new meals together because I had the time to teach her instead of making whatever was quick and easy. My husband and I sat on the patio after the kids were in bed because we weren’t busy washing uniforms, getting ready for the next day, or exhausted from the current day. Granted both of us were still working, often longer hours than normal, but not having anything else to do beyond work and school gave my family uninterrupted time to simply be together. My oldest is about to be a teenager and I know, in the upcoming years, that I will long for this time we have had together. I know this is a similar story for many people. Whether someone was at home with their family, roommates, or by themself, people took a breath. They took up new hobbies, did projects around the house, or simply relaxed. In a society that celebrates the busy, it was needed for people to be given permission to slow down.

Relationships were Valued

If there was anything that was learned from being apart, it was how much people really want to be together. The face to face conversation, a handshake and hug, and the ability to share a meal together will not be taken for granted for a long time to come. An awareness of the preciousness of time together was brought to light after in-person visits to long-term care facilities were not allowed, and trips to visit family were canceled. Working from home took away a lot of social interaction so people longed to be in the presence of others and valued conversations. So many of us had gotten complacent in our time together, allowing social media to become a poor substitute. I think we have all seen that interaction only through the lens of social media can have a negative effect. So people started making an effort to interact with one another. I saw neighbors sitting out in their yards in numbers I’d never seen before. People got creative with getting their friends together with parking lot socials, Happy Hour through Zoom, and FaceTime get-togethers. It wasn’t an uncommon sight to see a parade of decorated cars go by as birthdays and graduations were celebrated by parades. People recognized how important it was to stay connected to others and put forth the effort to make it happen. I hope the importance of relationships is something that sticks around.

As 2020 closes, it will end with cheers of relief. It has been a very hard year, especially for those who lost loved ones. It was a year that held several tumultuous times in our country, often dividing people and causing friction in relationships. People lost jobs, had to close businesses, and needed assistance for basic bills and food. Anxiety and uncertainty made day to day life difficult and stressful. So it makes complete sense to long for a fresh start on January 1, 2021. But let’s not forget the lessons learned and the goodness that was shown. We can say we are stronger, more creative, more compassionate, and value others because of 2020. And we can also gladly bid it farewell! Here’s to 2021!