As December continues on, the holiday season is upon us, and the prospect of finally leaving 2020 behind draws ever closer. This has been a rough and completely unpredictable year. If someone had told me at this time last year what was all in store, I would not have believed them. A global pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans, an election that has stretched our societal divides to a breaking point and an economic crisis that has inflicted pain on so many businesses and workers. It is tough to see if anything went right this year. While I am most certainly looking forward to the promise of better times ahead, I think there are some events this year that can give us some hope.
COVID-19 has certainly been a catastrophe like no other, affecting every part of our daily lives. But I know that I have been lucky. There have been far too many people who have died, lost a loved one or had serious complications because of this virus.
Through all of this, our healthcare workers show their inspiring dedication and service. As so many people have needed their help, healthcare workers have risen to the challenge, at much personal sacrifice and risk to themselves as well. It is truly inspiring to see the level of drive to assist others that they bring every day, and their work gives me hope that eventually we can overcome this disease.
The election is another topic from which it seems there is no good path ahead. It is sad to see fellow Americans so bitterly divided about the direction of the country and bickering about whose voices should be included in making decisions that will affect us all. While this situation is terrible, an anecdote I have from election day gives me some solace that things might improve.
While serving as an election judge, I was amazed by the level of turnout. Hundreds of people came to the polling site I worked to cast their ballots, and hundreds more had already voted absentee. Applying that throughout all of the precincts in the state brought Minnesota close to setting a new voter turnout record and the highest in the nation. One thing that really impressed me was the number of newly registered voters. It wasn’t just young people voting for the first time, either. I registered senior citizens and middle-aged people as well.
For those newly registered who were not just turning 18, this might have been the first time in a long while that they decided to vote, or maybe they had never exercised their right to vote before. It was such an amazing feeling to be part of people’s acts of registering to vote, and it’s made me more optimistic that people really care for and are engaged in our democracy. If we can keep up this kind of turnout and interest in politics, maybe we will be able to get more accomplished.
In these troubled times, we should also be mindful of all of our local businesses and workers. Through guidelines and lockdowns people are working every day to keep their businesses going and provide for family and the community. Now more than ever is a time to recognize those in need of assistance and to give them a helping hand. Recently, the CSB/SJU community turned out big to support Sliced on College Avenue, the pizza place in St. Joseph, when that restaurant put out an appeal on social media.
So while 2020 has been a year that has tested and frayed so many of us, we should remember there is some cause for optimism, that people are working hard to improve the situation and to assist their neighbors in the community. While we enjoy the holiday season and look forward to 2021, this past year showed us that in troubled times, there is always hope that can be found. And that’s what the holidays are all about.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.