Newsletter by Mary Buffett
There is much that can be learned from 2020, as painful as the last twelve months have been. Things will not magically improve once the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. We are now experiencing a deadly third wave of the COVID-19 virus. We hope and pray that the various FDA approved vaccines can get out into the field as soon as possible to inoculate an entire nation from this terrible pandemic. However, we are realists. More deaths will occur. However, things will get better. Trust me, they will.
Perhaps it is wholly appropriate that the gift under this year’s tree should be “resilience.”
Our resilience has shown that we are stronger than we realize. Yes, we have dealt with a number of gut-punches. Yes, we have had to deal with innumerable stories of painful loss and societal disruption this year. Yes, the bungled approach to the pandemic cost the nation time. Millions of jobs were lost. Hundreds of thousands are dead. People experienced real pain and found themselves on the edge.
This has happened before. Each time, we got up and moved on. Even though it was painful, we found a way to move forward.
In Greek mythology, it was Pandora who opened up the forbidden box and a whole legion of terrible unmentionables floated out into the world. However, at the bottom of the box was “hope,” something which we will all need going forward.
Resilience is “hope” in action.
During The Great Recession (2008-2012), “resilience” popped up in the buzzwords of authors describing what was needed to survive difficult times. Many writers tried to quantify what resilience meant, but certain things are as plain as the nose on your face.
You just keep moving. That’s what you do.
I think about those terrible moments of the 20th century when the basic faith in humanity was sorely tested. After the worst was dished out, that generation remained resilient, even with the deep physical and emotional scars. They found a way to pick themselves up and keep walking.
We think of those Americans who comprised “The Greatest Generation.” They spent their childhood dealing with the social and economic catastrophe of The Great Depression but came of age just in time to fight the Second World War. They rebuilt the world after the war and created the “American Century.”
We can do the same.
Today’s generation has dealt with two huge issues not seen since those terrible times: The Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been periods of growth and recession since the end of World War II, but each have been smoothed over by regulatory structures designed to act as an economic guardrail. However, those guardrails were nowhere to be found between 2008 and 2012, when The Great Recession burned a hole in this nation. Then we had COVID-19, the type of pandemic which seemed like it came from a 1970’s disaster movie screenplay. Millions of jobs were lost. People entered into a time of hopelessness.
However, after The Great Recession, we picked ourselves up and walked forward as best as we could. In time, things improved and got better. The bad times got smaller and smaller in our own “rearview mirror.” That’s what happened as we came out of those times. And that’s what will happen as we emerge from our COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s not engage in magical thinking as we move through this. 405,000 Americans died in World War II, with 295,000 of them killed in actual combat. As of this printing, the death toll of COVID-19 has exceeded the American combat fatalities from that terrible war. It is only a matter of time before the COVID-19 death toll will surpass all American deaths in World War II.
I may never understand those who deny the pandemic’s existence as some sort of hoax and tempt fate by not wearing a mask. For them, COVID-19 carries a sense of unreality because these deaths take place far away from the public eye, usually in the sterile setting of a hospital ICU. Patients die when their vital signs flatline, often ventilated and alone. These aren’t the types of visual horrors seen after a school or club shooting, where images of blood, pain and death are as visceral as they are self-evident. COVID-19 delivers a personal loss that is seen with an empty chair at the holiday table; it is a private memory that can no longer be shared because he or she is no longer with us.
I have friends who are dealing with the scourge of this virus and I pray for those with diminished immune systems because of past battles with cancer or other diseases.
However, I know that they, too, will put one step in front of the other. Some of the early steps may feel unsteady. But over time, they will gain the confidence to move at a quicker clip.
Perhaps, not unlike what was found at the bottom of Pandora’s Box, resilience is the gift for 2020. There will be pain, but we will make it through to safety on the other side. While we lick our wounds, let’s not forget to keep moving forward. Our ancestors lived through more difficult times and they persevered. We will do the same and continue our journey. Someday our grandchildren, when reflecting upon their own difficulties at some point long into the future, will find the needed courage from how we behaved during this tough time.
So, let’s make them proud. Now.
Finally, as we move out of a very difficult 2020 and move into a more hopeful 2021, I wish you all the happiest of holidays.
And please be safe.