My 2020 Christmas Letter

Linda A Richardson wrote this in response to a Christmas brag sheet she received which complained about the inconveniences of a family while ignoring the suffering of so many of their neighbors. Instead of Christmas cards, she is mailing post cards to Georgia Democrats to encourage voting in their Senate Runoff.

As we stop and reflect on this unique year, Bill and I are more grateful than ever.  During these challenging times we are thankful for these gifts our family enjoy:

HEALTH  – So far, our family is COVID free.  Two family members are frontline medical professionals.  Eleanor Sanders, Billy’s girlfriend and resident doctor in New York City, has extensively treated COVID patients and seen more death in her short tenure than she expected to see in her career.  She has protected herself with a hardware store mask and had to re-use PPE as shortages continue.  Jenna is a Certified Nurses Assistant not yet treating COVID patients while nursing her youngest, Rylan. Her babysitter has had fevers twice- not due to COVID.  She expects to begin COVID rotations soon.  Linda’s MS has been stable after an exacerbation last November. Linda’s mom in assisted living in Ohio has also been well.

INCOME –  No one has lost their job.  Jon and Amy opened their third restaurant in South Carolina taking out a business loan to open the third one week before SC shut down all eat in dining.  With three kids, a mortgage and car loans as well as over 100 employees, the health risks have only added to the very real stress that their business would fail.  With a PPP loan, they have kept all three locations afloat without getting sick.  Loyal customers who bought gift cards as they were closing and who have done pick up and now limited dining in have rallied to help. Billy has been working remotely at the consulting firm and Jenna’s husband Brandon has started his own company installing fiber optic cable.  Luckily, this is outside work and he has had lots of it.

HEALTH CARE – No one has lost their health care. Jon and Amy continue to have Affordable Care insurance and are thankful for that public option allowing them to afford to cover their family’s needs. Bill has Social Security, Medicare, and a partial pension through PBGC that allow us to live comfortably.    These public, sometimes called “socialist programs,” have allowed our family to get medical care without having to make difficult financial choices.  Jenna and Billy also have coverage through the hospitals where Jenna and Eleanor work. Linda  continues to have coverage through retirement that allows her to afford the expensive MS drugs to keep her healthy.

HOME –  No one has been evicted from their home.  Jon and Amy were able to work with their mortgage company to keep current. Jenna and Brandon were able to refinance.

FOOD –  No one has had to go to a food bank to get groceries.

NO NATURAL DISASTERS – We weren’t hit by a hurricane this record breaking year!  We also have not been ravaged by wildfires like the western states while Jenna was close but not impacted by the fires in Colorado.  While the risks of these climate change disasters continue to increase, the added risk of managing this loss during a pandemic has been disastrous for those impacted.  We are selling our camper to a California couple, one of many, seeking shelter on a temporary basis.

FACETIME –  FaceTime has been a godsend as we get to see our kids and grandkids on a regular basis.    This Thanksgiving,  Bill and I spent time safely alone at home yet got to “see” both of our families and many of our friends while we expressed our genuine thanks for our good fortune!  Christmas will be the same.

CDC GUIDANCE –   Because Linda is immunosuppressed, we have followed CDC guidelines to the letter.  We appreciate our friends and neighbors who have been exceptionally careful as we socialize in the driveway, camped at a state park, and spent several weeks on our boat exploring this beautiful paradise that is our back yard. The internationally recognized experts for this type of crisis in the US set the guidelines of mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing which, coupled with contact tracing and testing, have been effective around the world when implemented.  The tragic and unnecessary pain, suffering (both physical and financially) and loss of life  that could have been avoided here is, as Mitt Romney says, “a human tragedy.”  Knowing that these tools are the only ones our family has to keep them safe makes our commitment to them not a sacrifice but a small show of support for our essential workers and kids in daycare and school.

VOLUNTEERS –  While essential workers are exposed to pandemic risk yet are compensated, the volunteers who are taking Meals on Wheels, staffing food banks, and serving as poll workers and canvassers have  and continue to work to ease suffering and to allow a record breaking number of people to vote safely in  the most secure election in modern times-during a pandemic. Amazing!  Linda volunteered as a phone canvasser for the Biden/Harris campaign making almost 4600 calls to voters in Charlotte County. In addition to getting people to vote, she was able to connect people to resources for food, rent and utility costs.  This volunteer opportunity made her aware of the 46 food pantries and one personal care item pantry in our county alone and has inspired both Bill and Linda to begin more vigorous volunteer efforts after vaccination.

VACCINES –  We are thankful for the Pfizer vaccine developed by Turkish immigrants in Germany working with an American company and manufactured in Denmark. Amazing things can happen when people work together across boundaries toward a common goal.  We are thankful for the rapid vaccine development and trust that this new RNA type of vaccine may soon be able to combat HIV and other viral illnesses that have yet eluded breakthrough treatments or cures.  Of course, we are thankful for the other two vaccines and will take the first available to allow us to begin to safely spend time with more people.

LOVE  –  Bill and I are thankful for the love and support that we have from family and friends.  We are hopeful that love for one another will guide the actions of our leaders in a way to minimize the divisiveness and truly allow more people to fully live their life.

WHITE PRIVILEGE –  As our oldest grandson prepares to drive we are so thankful that we don’t have to have “the talk” about how to survive an encounter with law enforcement.   We are also thankful that we didn’t have to prevent them from wearing hoodies and that our family is not profiled in shopping malls and surveyed in other public spaces because of the color of our skin.  We are thankful that we have not been denied jobs, housing, promotions or suffered financial inequities on that basis. While we realize this gift, we wish for the day when all people in America are able to realize the same treatment, for there can be no justice without racial justice.

2020 has been a time of quiet reflection and a reminder of how precious and fragile life is and how interconnected we all are.  We are grateful for the gifts we have and are committed to helping our neighbors who are less fortunate than us.  May your Christmas season be safe and happy and may 2021 come with a speedy recovery from this pandemic.

Image Credits: Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay