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EDITORIAL: 2020’s pandemic has united and divided us

The greatest lesson of the year may be that we are all connected

Looking back at 2020, it should come as no surprise to learn that the year’s biggest stories came to us courtesy of a microscopic organism.

The novel coronavirus, words most of us were hearing for the first time in January (we were later introduced to the term COVID-19) dominated almost every aspect of our lives this year from employment and education, to family connections, travel, sports and entertainment.

It has simultaneously divided and united us in a way that likely none of us could have predicted 10 months ago.

Friendships – Facebook friendships, at least – have been pushed to the brink by something as simple as wearing, or not wearing, a face mask; health restrictions and fears of spreading the pandemic have savaged every plan, both personally and in business, in ways that would have seemed unimaginable before.

The cold winds of uncertainty have shaken every economy to its foundations, while governments at all levels have been challenged to provide quick relief through measures only previously equalled in times of war and disaster. In societies geared to monetary wealth as the only measure of success, declining income has been mirrored by declining physical and mental health.

All of this has been compounded by the effects of forced isolation, particularly for some of the most vulnerable members of our society – seniors living in long-term care facilities.

But the topsy-turvydom of this pandemic has not been without positives. While we may be addicted to technology as a form of distraction, we’ve also been forced to discover the ways it can keep us connected, whether through online business meetings or live video calls with friends and relatives. A surprising number of us have found ways to stay healthy, focused and creative even under quarantine conditions.

And harsh times have a way of bringing out the best in many of us, as so many stories of selfless contributions to the community – and spontaneous demonstrations of appreciation for health and emergency workers – have attested. We have discovered that, beyond all material goods, we crave human touch and companionship.

The greatest lesson of the year may be that we are united – not only by our current shared experience – but by common dreams and hopes for a better future. In that spirit we wish you a happy new year – one better and brighter than we may even imagine at present.

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