I can’t let the holiday season end without one last look at my favorite book by Dr. Seuss as he tells the story of the Grinch and how “his heart grew three sizes”-- once he realized that Christmas did not come from a store but rather that “maybe…Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”
And I wondered how that applied to this year that is drawing to a close. Was there a little bit more to 2020 than COVID-19?
There’s no doubt that 2020 was a year for the history books. Stories about COVID-19 -- punctuated by stories of the devastating wildfires, civil unrest and the presidential election -- dominated the media and nearly everything about our lives for almost the entire year. There is clearly hope on the horizon with the vaccine but we still have a ways to go. (And face masks and hand sanitizer will be with us long after the vaccines are given.)
But as we anticipate 2021, I reflect on things we might have overlooked in 2020 that are worth a closer look.
Resilience thrived in each of us -- in our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our organizations -- throughout the year.
Innovation flourished during COVID-19. Valley Children’s Healthcare quickly expanded our telehealth services for many of our patients, ensuring that care would continue even if visits to the doctor were a bit harder to navigate. Businesses found new ways to operate, families found new ways to work and go to school from home, manufacturers who used to make plastic countertops found new business lines in plastic face shields and those who used to make leotards shifted to face masks.
Kindness emerged everywhere. The Guilds of Valley Children’s gathered 1000 pairs of pajamas for our kids. Businesses reached out to our hospital and offered food and meals to sustain our teams in the early days of COVID-19 as staff were working around the clock. Churches offered care, neighbors checked in on one another and senior centers delivered meals to seniors who could no longer gather together for lunch.
Mental health became something we talked more and more about. Often described as the ”second” wave of this pandemic, mental health rose to the top of many conversations -- with our patients and their families, with our colleagues and with our own families and friends. Taking care of each other became top of mind and we provided more support, made more connections and found new pathways for access.
My wish for the New Year? That we continue these positive experiences from 2020 and that we gather around those folks who were the exceptions to those experiences - those who lost loved ones, who lost businesses, struggled to provide home schooling while living in their cars, were unable to get basic healthcare for their families or provide basic food and housing for their kids.
COVID-19 taught us many lessons -- may we learn them well and carry them into 2021. Valley Children’s is committed to improving the health of kids where they live, learn and play -- and we have all seen more clearly what that will take in the years to come.
Oh, and my one other wish for 2021?
Keep wearing your mask.
by Lynne Ashbeck, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement and Population Wellness at Valley Children's Healthcare