Finding Moments of Gratitude and Blessing

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, December 31, 2020

Welcome 2021! I don’t think anyone is sorry to say goodbye to 2020. It has been a year unlike any other. However, I hope that we will remember some positive changes that have made 2020 a little bit better.* As Viktor Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 113)

The immediate effect on the environment of worldwide lockdowns in the Spring brought the largest reduction in carbon emissions ever recorded – seven percent. Countries and corporations are committing to emission reduction plans. The skies were clearer as less emissions meant less air pollution and birds and animals were seen enjoying their habitats in places they had not been seen in a long time.

We learned just how dependent we are on one another, and how much we appreciate the dedication of those who are doing the hardest jobs in the midst of this pandemic. Medical personnel – nurses, orderlies, doctors, janitors, technicians, personal support workers, paramedics, and other health care workers risk their lives to save ours. City workers, fire fighters, and safety officers, truck drivers, grocery stockers, farmworkers and so many more continue to risk their lives to keep our communities fed and functioning.

The Black Lives Matter movement, in response to the killing of George Floyd, a most horrific act of police brutality caught on video, has led to a wakeup call sparking the beginning of reforms. The subsequent protests and reflections have led to the start of some major changes across policing, government, education, entertainment, and more. While the work is really just beginning, the tremendous impact that protestors, organizers, and activists have had on their communities demands that we continue to press forward for change.

We’ve gained bonus time with family, and learned to get creative – made sourdough, tried new recipes, learned to do some basic home repairs, picked up long forgotten hobbies, completed puzzles, helped our siblings and our neighbours. Many of us felt isolated in our social distancing, but have made the best of what we could to stay in contact with others. We’ve also reconnected with old friends, or started new connections.

We have all become more tech savvy. We’ve harnessed the power of the internet, learned to use video chat, Zoom, picked up the phone, and used old fashioned tech – sending letters and cards to maintain connections with family, friends, and the Solel community. We’ve learned to do synagogue life a bit differently and how to participate while homebound or far away, even many thousands of kilometers of distance away. While in-person meetings, classes, and celebrations are not yet back, what we have learned about inclusion through tech will remain a part of how we continue to make sure everyone can participate in a post-pandemic world.

Before 2020, no vaccine had ever been developed, trialed and approved in under four years. Scientists across the world came together to decode the virus and create vaccines that could prevent the spread of Covid-19. In less than 12 months two 95% effective vaccines are already being shipped out and injected into arms across the world. And the mRNA vaccine heralds a new era in vaccine technology that holds promising advances for cancer patients and future disease outbreaks.

As 2021 begins, may we continue to bring positive change to our world. May 2021 bring health and healing to our world. May we find moments of gratitude and blessing in each day.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

*P.S. Looking at the positive changes that 2020 has brought is in no way meant to minimize the reality of an incredibly difficult year. Many have lost loved ones. Many are struggling. Many feel or have felt sad, scared, frustrated and broken. And it is important to name and acknowledge what we are going through. And please do not tell yourself “I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse.” While it is often true that someone out there has it worse than you, that doesn’t mean that you, your experiences, and your emotions are not important and real. The positive meanings can only be found when we acknowledge our feelings and losses. They matter and they are valid. The struggles that we face each and every day are part of being human. That is part of our story too.

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