Sustainable Putnam

Farewell, 2020. Hello, 2021!

This post was originally written June 2, 2020, but never published. Here it is on December 27, at the twilight at this most incredible of years, perhaps even more timely now…

My family and I have been trying to get out each weekend for a local day hike. Stretch the legs. Forget our work and our chores. Immerse ourselves in nature. It’s something we’ve always done, but certainly not every weekend. And each week, it never fails to refresh our bodies and minds, and uplift our spirits. This past Sunday, however, the unexpected happened. I ran into a friend.

It was SO wonderful to see a friend at such an unexpected time and place. I actually recognized her children, who I heard, then spotted through some trees, as they played by a stream. Then I saw my friend and called out to her from the ridge above. Sure enough, it was her with her whole family, and me with mine. We made now familiar comments about “this crazy situation,” how exhausting it has been for her to home school her elementary school-age children, and me, as a teacher, to connect with students via Zoom.

As we said our good byes and I turned to catch up with my family, my friend called to me, “Hey! Do you remember that conversation we had last fall? That I wanted my family to start having dinners together at the table? Well, we’re doing it! Every night now … and it’s wonderful!”

“Yeah!” her son exclaimed. “We used to eat real quick and run to the TV, but now we eat together every night, and we talk and we wait for Mom and Dad to finish before we get up!”

We shared a chuckle over that summary, but it was clear that their dinners together are wonderful for her whole family.

So we ended our conversation once again, and I hustled to catch up to my own family, already ahead on the trail. As we hiked on, I started to imagine what those dinners would be like with two elementary school-aged children. Do they help set and clear the table? Or maybe even do a little food prep with their mother and father?

How many other families are now sharing the evening meal who never had the opportunity before? Late nights at work, business travel, or just plain fatigue from the daily grind keeps many families from spending significant time together. Many of us are still fatigued, but how many of us have used this opportunity to re-engineer a little piece of our home life with roommates, partners, or relatives?

My spouse has reported that those meal-in-a-box services have been booming, and we couldn’t find yeast in any grocery store for months. Clearly, many are cooking more meals at home, baking, planting vegetable and herb gardens, and taking on all kinds of home and yard projects.

Others are volunteering in our community, assisting those who are elderly, home bound, or disabled. Working for nonprofits such as Community Cares or Second Chance Foods. It’s more than heartening, though it’s also clear that the pandemic has had a horrible impact on many residents’ health and well being. Unemployment and financial crises are impacting many of us. There’s nothing inspiring or heartwarming about losing your income and/or your medical insurance. These are direct impacts that must be addressed at every level of our society.

While much has been done locally, much more action is needed. That too is part of the silver lining for those of us who are less impacted. We have the opportunity to do good staring us in the face. Taking up those opportunities provides benefits to the beneficiary as well as the benefactor. It’s inspiring.

Whether you’re helping others, cooking, gardening, or cleaning or repairing your own home, or carrying out a long-planned project, you are acting intentionally, perhaps in a way that was rarely or never possible before COVID-19 compelled us all to shelter in place.

I’m not the first to note that it has been recreational in the literal sense of that word. We are re-creating our lives, with intention, moment by moment. I am here. At home. I have no alternative. What do I want to do with this moment? As I think about and plan my days, I make deliberate choices — and act on them! That is truly liberating.

So what if, after Putnam County is fully re-opened, we continue to live our lives in this way? What if we decide to continue cooking our own meals, dining together with intention, growing our own vegetables, making home repairs, and volunteering our time? How much more joy and satisfaction would we find in our lives if we remain the producers we’ve become this year, not merely consumers? How much richer in spirit will we be? How much friendlier and more cohesive will our communities be? The pandemic will pass, but we can carry forward with us this new perspective, the good works already completed, and the hope for a better tomorrow.

In what ways has 2020 changed your perspective or how you spend your days and evenings? Please share your story below.

1 thought on “Farewell, 2020. Hello, 2021!”

  1. As one example, I used to spend many evenings driving to community meetings in my town or elsewhere in the County. With the switch to Zoom, I have found that I can be just as active in these group meetings without all of us getting in our cars to drive to our mutual meeting site. Additionally, people who often couldn’t attend in person are able to join virtually. So I hope that will continue.

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