Wishes for 2021

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

“New Year Wishes” | Photo by janoma.cl via Creative Commons

For different reasons, the end of one year and the entry of a new one can be quite emotional. And in one of those rare times, people and nations have a common sentiment centered on one reality – the COVID-19 pandemic. Like a world war that has disrupted all normalcy and caused a horrifying number of deaths, the pandemic rearranged everything and continues to demand center stage attention. Life revolves around COVID-19, still.

Ah, yes, vaccines are now available for the first lucky millions. Billions will wait for another year, though, as the supply of already approved vaccines needs physical production time. Other vaccines still in the making will be under extreme pressure to successfully prove both efficacy and safety. I wonder how many will get fast-tracked approval so that countries waiting for them can be served. Not every government will be as firm in demanding the highest standards when COVID-19 continues to ravage economies and kill their citizens.

I left the metropolis that had served as a virtual prison for many months, fortunate to find an opportunity to visit a favorite mountain in the north. The trip was fast up to a point. New tollways are amazing. COVID-19, however, manages to disturb at every turn. Visitors must go through the equivalent of checkpoints, not to check for illegal firearms or drugs, but against possible carriers of the virus. Even as we open businesses and local travel, we cannot get careless for fear of a dreaded resurgence.

“December 31 to January 1, 2020, to 2021. Midnight becomes New Year – like magic. And we make our wishes, we make our promises, as though life has just given us a second chance. For many repeating reasons, we have created a powerful ritual of it all.”

Every new year cycle, truly little dramatic changes coincide with the turning of the calendar. The page turns slowly except in our minds most of the time, more in anticipation than. Somehow, we are caught in fixed time frames rather than its seamless flow. Perhaps, our spirit intuitively wants to break free from being boxed in by time as defined by humanity and always looks forward to opportunities for changes approved by society. New Year is one such event.
What a difference a day makes, an old song goes. December 31 to January 1, 2020, to 2021. Midnight becomes New Year – like magic. And we make our wishes, we make our promises, as though life has just given us a second chance. For many repeating reasons, we have created a powerful ritual of it all.

We are putting COVID-19 amid that ritual, so central it has been in our recent life and so central it remains to be. I know we are starting with a desperate wish – that COVID-19 goes away, that vaccines will be available at once and will protect us fully, and that life goes back to normal. We make this wish although we know that it will not just happen. But we must hope, and so, we must wish.

There are other wishes, I know, and they become more customized than universal. Each of us has pains we wish to go away, and each of us has dreams we hope will come true. I pray that all good wishes will be answered and that others with more selfishness than the common good in mind will not prosper. In my heart of hearts, though, I know that wishing is like the spirit only seeking quick relief of sorts, tired from a COVID-19 year. I know a struggle continues and we must work hard in 2021.

There is no new normal for the new year except the one we have started to build with our instinct to survive and human insights from the accumulated experience. There may be a pattern emerging after nine months and the lessons they offer to us. But there is no vision that has yet been articulated, no forward pathway that inspires humanity still dazed and afraid. That leaves us on a day-to-day experiment, hopefully with courage and resolve.

“There is no new normal for the new year except the one we have started to build with our instinct to survive and human insights from the accumulated experience. There may be a pattern emerging after nine months and the lessons they offer to us.”

Many have shared their lessons from a COVID-19-struck 2020 and we are not starting from zero. It is a matter of putting the lessons learned together and build a recovery framework around them. Unfortunately, many leaderships will manipulate those lessons to fit their narrow agenda. This will be the continuing bane of the world when people in power will exploit the pandemic to further their control. Everywhere I look, politicians and governments cannot extract their vested interests for the common good. The pandemic may have taught most of us lessons we appreciate today but those lessons may not be enough for the privileged and the powerful.

It would be very wrong, even stupid, for us who simply and blindly followed from our own fears and dependencies to not take more control of our lives. After all, we are not about rebelling from authorities. But we have a responsibility as citizens to the wellbeing of our nation, not just the welfare of our families. The first lesson of COVID-19 is that we are helpless as families when we are not part of a community, that in the community lies our survival and sustainable security. Our focus must now be on becoming strong communities.

“A new year will not bring new results without a new attitude and new ways of doing things. Let 2021 be that new chance for a new life.”

The virus also taught us that it respects no social or economic distinctions. The power of transmissibility makes us all equal because the weakest can infect the strongest, that our collective health demands our taking care of one another. Poverty and hunger are dangerous carriers for the pandemic, especially when the poor and hungry are in numbers that overwhelm those who are not. The poor and the feeling poor must be encouraged and supported to be and feel otherwise.

Those among us who see more clearly, who feel braver and more adventurous, who accept that leadership by example inspires more than authority by position, the challenge to ring the bell of hope and lead the charge to the recovery of spirit and life in our communities are upon us. A new year will not bring new results without a new attitude and new ways of doing things. Let 2021 be that new chance for a new life.

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