For many years, I would frantically try and get our family Christmas cards in the mail in early December. Over time, that shifted to the week of Christmas. Then I told myself that people might really appreciate a New Year’s card instead…so it was January. The last few years, it hasn’t happened at all.
But in every card -- when I actually managed to get them finished -- the note always started the same: “Can’t believe how fast the year went, can’t believe we are another year older, our kids are another year along their own paths” …or something that sounded like that.
And that’s how I feel about this blog. “Didn’t I just write a welcome 2021 blog?” And, yes, I can’t believe another year has passed. But unlike the way that my own family cards used to sound, I am not inspired to recount all that happened in 2021, all that we did to survive and thrive through the chaos, or describe the times we didn’t actually thrive at all. We each had all of those experiences … sometimes, all on the same day.
Instead, what comes to my mind are the lessons that I hope we learned along the way -- new ideas, reinforcement of long-held values, and how hard we must all work to hold on to this community we live in.
I’m filled with gratitude for the hundreds of doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, maintenance team, dietary staff, information technology team and more who tirelessly worked around the clock to make sure every child had the best care possible. They showed up every single day, while the rest of world seemed to spin out of control at times.
The small acts of kindness -- shown to families who needed a meal, a co-worker who needed a break or a neighbor who had lost their job -- made a difference to so many. It is easy to think that we, as a community, have lost that ability to simply be kind to one another. I admit, I think that is true sometimes. But it only takes a quick look around to restore our faith in each other, especially here at Valley Children’s.
And civility and decency.
We clearly live in a time when any opinion -- if it is different than those expressed by the person across from you -- is often met with contempt, rudeness and downright meanness. We have lost our ability to simply “hear” another person without feeling like everything is an argument, a debate to be had or a reason to tell you that you are wrong. We must each work every day to choose our words carefully, to try and understand another’s views, and to focus on what we share in common.
And remembering that not everything is about “I.”
The world is clearly a fairly self-centered place. How people feel seems to be enough for them to decide that’s just how they are going to act, regardless of its impact on others. Beyond all of that, however, are groups of people acting in the best interest of others first, trying to operate from facts vs. feelings, trying to find compromise in the midst of complex conflicts. A large group of those people are right here at Valley Children’s. And you likely encounter them, as well. Thank them for their work that makes all of us better.
And what is the start of a new year without a New Year’s resolution?
For each of us, my wish is for a little more gratitude, kindness and grace for those around us. We can lament that we have lost much of that …or we can commit to change our small piece of this world.
Let’s try for the latter.
About the Author
Lynne Ashbeck is a senior vice president and Chief Community Impact Officer at Valley Children’s Healthcare. In her role, Lynne works with physicians, hospital staff and community leaders to formulate and implement population wellness strategies designed to improve the health outcomes of children and their families in their neighborhoods, schools and community – or, as she is often heard saying, simply "keeping kids well where they live, learn and play."