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Jim Crawford: We are still standing as 2021 begins

We will never forget 2020, nor will we ever regale its character-shaping benefits.

2020 was not a year to suggest triumph over adversity, or that hardships shape character.

The best we can summon, as a way of understanding this trying period, may be that we are still standing.

Still standing.

We lost more Americans in 2020 than any year in our history, approximately 400,000 more than 2019, largely because of the coronavirus and its continuing toll on our loved ones.

But our doctors, our nurses, our hospital staffs, all continue to save lives daily. Our scientists continue to solve the virus with vaccines and treatments that will ultimately allow us to prevail against the silent and deadly killer.

There is reason for hope, but there is unabiding pain from the losses already experienced and those about to follow.

Still standing.

Unlike the great challenges of our past as a nation, the crises of 2020 have not brought us together as a people.

Instead, we have fought over masks, made science and scientists our punching bags, ignored simple practices that could have saved lives, and many of us have chosen a political lens to view factual choices.

But, divisions non-withstanding, we have kept the trains running, kept the trucks shipping, and kept the grocery stores open.

In each case, many Americans have taken risks to their health that none would have chosen but for the absolute necessity of their essential tasks. They all, so many, deserve our deepest gratitude.

Still standing.

We can no longer deny that our political system is severely damaged, if not broken.

Our Congress seems helpless for the most part, unable to resolve to set aside differences to serve the American people in need. When we needed medical supplies to fight the virus, Congress was silent and our president was distracted.

When we needed more help to families to ensure their food supply and home security, congress was slow to act and wasteful in its actions.

But we elected a president who sees his chief goal as finding ways to unify the nation. May he find success for all of us to see beyond our petty arguments.

Still standing.

Our food banks have been stretched in demand, challenged to find enough volunteers, and have served 4.2 billion meals from March through October alone, in a great effort to help us help each other.

For many Americans in need, this year has been the first time in their lives that they needed help with food. But the food banks have continued to fill most of the immediate demands for food, have found Americans donating with compassion and stand tall today and ready to remain steadfast during the COVID-19 crisis.

Still standing.

A Japanese proverb seems to suggest the best advice for the end of 2020 and the beginning of a new year. “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” The American character has been shaped by discovery, independence, courage and compromise in our past. It must now be shaped yet again, this time by resilience, and by resolution, to look to help all who are in need, whether for food, medical care, the deep depression from loss and loneliness and, yes, even for escape from our political anger at each other.

The holidays reminded those of faith that hope still guides us in times of challenge. Robert Schuller said, “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”

We are still standing, and hope can shape our future.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.