Each year, thousands and thousands of people enter the new year, expecting something to change… something to make their lives better just because the calendar changes to a new year. Memberships to gyms skyrocket, diets are begun, and promises of quitting that “nasty habit” are made. Sadly, many of these “changes” never stick because they take a lot of work and preparation for a permanent change to be made.
I share this because I know that many people have looked forward to the end of 2020 shortly after it began, in order to put all of the problems we faced behind us. It is not that people are trying to run away from their problems, but rather, they are ready to move on. The problem is that unless we take the time to think about and learn from these challenges, we are missing an incredible opportunity to gain insight that could benefit us.
Yes, 2020 was a year full of many trials and tribulations and sadly, 2021 seems to be starting off the same way. But… I believe people are feeling optimistic about what 2021 may bring. There is a hopefulness and a longing for what can be that I have not seen or heard from people. Maybe it is because more and more people have been able to get the vaccine and an end to the pandemic is in sight, or maybe it is something else.
The question I have been thinking a lot about is this…What can we learn from 2020 that will help make 2021 better? It is a similar question I ask my staff immediately at the end of a program the Jewish Federation has just run. It is this evaluative exercise that allows us to continue to strive to make sure that our programs are the best they can be. There is always something we could do better.
So, besides the obvious things like, not having to go through another worldwide pandemic, what lessons can we learn from 2020? What are the takeaways that will help us continue to grow not only as individuals but also as a community?
Here is a short list of my takeaways:
1. Our world is a lot smaller than we ever comprehended. And because of that, we really do need to care about what happens in other parts of the world.
2. There is great value in being part of a community because people are willing to step up and help others. Just because we may not be able to see one another, knowing that people are there, provides strength and comfort.
3. We got through 2020 by relying on others. We need to show and express our gratitude more often to the various people in our lives.
4. Since we didn’t get to see, touch, or be with people very much, we need to value and savor these opportunities when they become available again.
5. Change can happen quickly when people are forced to do so. And people (and organizations) are very creative!
6. Teachers are wizards and superheroes all rolled into one and should be paid as such. And they have the patience of _____ (fill in the blank).
Okay, this last one is not so much a takeaway, but rather just a statement that I felt needed to be expressed on behalf of all parents who have school-aged children.
Take a moment and think about what your takeaways are from 2020. And if you are willing, please share them by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 has just begun. It is unclear what it has in store for us. Hopefully, we will be able to learn as much, or even possibly more, than we have gained from 2020. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to go through any of the same mishegas in order to do it.
JASON MOSS is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.