Photo by Narith Thongphasuk
Ask anybody: last year wasn’t ideal. But perhaps we shouldn’t completely discount 2020 just yet.
When the ball dropped above Times Square at the very end of 2019, the world welcomed 2020 with much joy and hope. No one then would have probably imagined how our lives were going to be turned upside down in a matter of months. Ever since the coronavirus began spreading from Tokyo to Toronto, it seems many of us have been playing catch up.
From figuring out how the virus was spreading to how one could protect oneself, to how to conquer it, the pandemic took over our lives. The downstream impact on the economy turned out to be equally, if not more, painful for the public at large. Falling revenues and job cuts tended to go hand in hand for many of the industries impacted by the disease – both directly and indirectly. Given this global reality, it isn’t surprising to see memes on social platforms that showcase the despair many still feel. Nor is it surprising to see so many companies and communities struggle to navigate post-pandemic realities.
While this is understandable, I submit: Let us not wholly deride or discount 2020.
After, all there is so much we have learned about ourselves – and each other – this past year.
Learning How Resilient We Are
In recent times, communities have faced the ravages of the pandemic head-on. Healthcare workers took on the onus of leading the charge; they became our first line of defense. As patients overran hospitals at the same time those facilities ran out of critical medical equipment and supplies, engineers innovated to keep the supply lines moving.
Such innovation enabled 58 Gin, a UK based boutique liquor brand to make hand sanitizers and support the fightback. Similarly, in India, the R&D team at automaker Mahindra’s plant was able to develop a life-saving ‘ambu bag.’ In just 48 hours at a price point of under one hundred dollars, they helped meet the acute shortage of ventilators. In myriad ways, people’s resilience showed we were not going to cave in to our unseen enemy.
Learning More Deeply About Ourselves
Forced to reduce our outdoor activities and limit our footprint, many of us got a chance to press the ‘pause’ button. We received the gift of more time with ourselves and our loved ones. In the process, we gained a deeper realization of our true selves. From understanding the futility of extravagant celebrations to a change in shopping patterns, we moved ahead in a more sustainable way – for ourselves and the planet.
This year, on Cyber Monday, online sales increased at less than half the projected rate, growing 15.1%. As our countries start opening up, we will witness some ‘revenge’ behavior when it comes to shopping or travel. But there is no doubt that a large number of us have recalibrated our lifestyle going forward.
Learning to Value Others More
If there is one visual of 2020 imprinted in our minds and hearts representative of the year, it is the image of grateful people on their balconies, singing songs of praise for our frontline workers. These first responders put themselves in between us and the virus to help save lives, even as they put their own lives at risk. People across the board realized and acknowledged their efforts.
Once the initial heartfelt act of gratitude went viral, others replicated the demonstration of appreciation in cities worldwide. We learned it isn’t race, gender, economic status, or even ‘follower count’ that defines someone’s true worth. Instead, it is their true value to society.
Learning How Nature is Capable of Revival
As COVID-19 forced us to lock down our cities, close our skies, and shutter down our factories, nature got a much-deserved chance to heal. Research by Science Direct establishes that “vital environmental changes have occurred during COVID-19 lockdown.” We’ve gained cleaner waters and purer air; even the noise level has been reduced by 35 to 68% all over the world.
In many cases, environmental scientists were able to benefit from the lockdown. For example, in New Delhi (consistently one of the ‘Most Polluted Cities of the World), they were able to determine the baseline levels of pollution. This much-needed metric will clearly aid the design of policies to better control pollution in the near future.
Learning How to Open Our Hearts to Others
DC resident Rahul Dubey won millions of hearts, not only in his home state but across the world, in 2020. At a critical moment, with police armed with tear gas bearing down, the 44-year-old welcomed more than 70 strangers into his home. Those strangers had gathered in the street to protest the shooting of George Floyd. But soon, their peaceful protest was anything but peaceful.
By opening his doors, he undoubtedly saved dozens of people from a potential stampede and further escalation of conflict. His noble act not only ensured his inclusion in Time Magazine’s Heroes of 2020 list, but it also confirmed to us that not all heroes wear capes.
Resist Temptation to Discount 2020
Despite all the strife we have witnessed in 2020, the year gave us many moments worthy of our gratitude. These moments, of course, do not bring back lost loved ones or livelihoods. But they do signal the fact that, as a species, we are built of strong mettle. And that by continuing to join hands, we will come out stronger on the other side of this virus. And anything else that comes at us.
Do not deride all of last year. Do not discount all that happened in 2020! Instead, as you look forward to a more hopeful 2021, be grateful for all we’ve learned!