It has been a challenging year.
We have witnessed racism against Black people. We have seen a rise in racial slurs against Asian Americans after the coronavirus hit. We have seen record unemployment. Parents have struggled to juggle work and their children's online learning. We have been consumed with learning how to work online. We have tried to stay connected to others while taking precautions to avoid spreading a disease that remains far from being under control. We have seen family members, neighbors and friends struggle after contracting the coronavirus and mourned after learning of another death. And we brace for what health experts warn us will be a devastating winter.
Not every challenge has been virus-related. The sorrow surrounding non-virus-related deaths has been multiplied by not being able to mourn in person together. We have spent weeks facing a constant barrage of voter fraud allegations and attempts to make our country's hallowed tradition of a transfer of presidential power neither smooth nor peaceful.
My father died in May. We mourned him virtually. Five months later, my sister died. She too we mourned via Zoom with a cemetery worker livestreaming the lowering of her casket. Neither death was COVID-related. Each loss left a wrenching hole in our lives.
In times like these, we can be left wondering whether there's anything to be thankful for. Nevertheless, we persist.
We can take heart that despite adverse conditions more than 150 million people turned out to vote, the highest percentage in more than a century. We can give thanks for the thousands of health care workers who continue to treat those afflicted with the virus. We can rejoice that at least two companies seem to have developed a vaccine against the coronavirus. And we can be thankful for our many friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues who try to keep themselves and those around them safe.
I am thankful. Each of my father's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was able to attend his online service, something that would not have been possible had we held an in-person service. For months, my sister and I were able to talk every Sunday night via Zoom even though we were 1,400 miles apart. My youngest granddaughter started high school online. Her older sister made my life more interesting with her Instagram posts. My youngest grandson quarantined in an on-campus apartment with friends as they cooked for one another and he tackled his nemesis, chemistry, online. His brother, my oldest grandson, continued his work toward being commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army upon graduation in May. And my wife saw her mental health counseling practice balloon as she mastered multiple online platforms to be able to work with her clients.
It sparks joy in me to continue to hear from readers and to work with an amazingly resilient group of students who refuse to let time-zone differences get in the way of their insatiable curiosity and their desire to learn.
In times like these, it feels as if it's the right thing to embrace those things for which we can be grateful without losing sight of the challenges that remain. "It's times like these," the poet Dave Grohl wrote, "you learn to live again."
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.
(PHOTO BY NANCY SEGLIN)