This season of thanks, now two years into a global pandemic, is one inevitably tinged with sorrow. You don’t have to have lost someone you’ve loved to reflect back with a wistful sigh on the loss of innocence, or of trust, or of just the simple twinge of a new strangeness to handshakes and hugs from friends at the holidays. We’ve all changed.
The optimists here at Beacon headquarters spend a lot of time talking about the good ways we’ve changed — new ideas about flexibility of work, the importance of family and innovations that enable us to live lives more in tune with the realities of the 21st Century.
But we can’t fully embrace these changes until we take full stock of the tectonic shifts that have forced them on us. We need to integrate this experience into our understanding of how to move forward.
As New Yorkers, we are well-poised to fully understand this transformation of the world. As the first epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, even out here on the East End we were on the front lines, not just of the medical effort but of the mass shift in human migration out of cities. And we’re also on the front lines of the construction of more resilient medical systems, classrooms and communities.
When you walk into a classroom now, say, at a local community college, you know everyone in the room will be vaccinated against Covid-19. You know they’ll all be wearing masks and you know that, should a breakthrough Covid case enter that room, several layers of protection stand between students and the disease. We’ve dramatically lowered the risk of spreading Covid, and we’ve learned how to do all this in such a short time.
The key to finishing up the fight against Covid is that we need to all buy in to the idea of protecting and supporting our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues. That can seem like a radical idea in a world that seems so divided, but try a little experiment and you may be surprised. Turn off your TV. Take a stroll to the post office (a mask is still a really good idea). And just see if you can’t find some fellow human beings itching for the chance to be real with one another. They are everywhere and they are ready to take on the new world.
So how does this new world need to be taken on?
We need to be honest, first with ourselves, and then with those around us. We need to be willing to speak up, particularly when something isn’t safe, but also when we see injustice. We need to balance our needs with those of our families, friends and colleagues. It’s pretty simple stuff, but this is the bedrock on which communities stay strong.
What will the future bring here? Well, you can bet that big-city money is in town to stay, for better and for worse. The good news is that people come here because they love the rural quiet, and hopefully want to keep the country quiet.
The bad news is that hordes of people can’t want to be here and have rural quiet still be an attainable goal. Change is inevitable, but how that change happens is another story, a story that we will all be able to write together, as soon as we get through yet another Covid winter.
We are near the finish line. Stay safe, and take this all in stride. There’s a lot of work ahead of us in 2022.