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Caring & kindness

This has come to be my favorite issue for this column space.

Now a few years in, I must admit I once found it extremely challenging. Packing myself with undue pressure to write the perfect “New Year” column.

So recently as I pondered this very trouble, I came to realize what a privilege and tremendous opportunity it is to share my thoughts with our readers as one year ends and yet another is fresh in front of us.

The 2023 year started with yet another battle with cancer personally speaking. It was also a year where we lost some pretty special people to the merciless disease. It’s an odd and at times troubling path to journey, watching loved ones succumb to the very disease you continue to battle. Loss has always had a funny way of tapping me on the shoulder as if to remind me of the fragility of life. The true Carpe Diem (Seize the Day), we must wake and embrace each and every day.

As a cancer survivor, it intensifies the reality of that.

Yet as the 2023 year came to a conclusion, I couldn’t help but reflect on some newer health issues we seem to be facing as a community, as well as a country. A disease which gained a lot of ground post-pandemic as our children returned to school and the media gave it attention: Mental Illness.

As parents we became hyper aware of the challenges our children faced as we returned from isolation from the world and back to “normal.” Yet, “normal” is not what it once was and may never be that again.

It’s not just our children, however, that have struggled with the transition “back,” in my opinion. As adults we see it more often now than ever before on the news, as well as social media. Coming out of an era where socialization was mainly via the internet, texting, Zoom calls and FaceTime we’ve got some big steps to make.

More and more the pandemic of keyboard warriors continues to grow and that’s not a good thing.

Most recently, by way of said social media, this became glaringly apparent as a community member openly bashed the community she lived in almost in a taunting sort of way. A friend had sent me a screen shot of the post along with mentioning that comments had climbed to over 85 in minutes as proud community members condemned the warrior’s opinion.

Reading through the thread my mind was quickly reminded of a favorite quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

It’s honestly all I could think as I read the comments from a community member who was clearly bored, troubled, angry or all of the above. Not to suggest that the poster struggles with mental illness yet at the same time … how do we know.

Transitioning back to the new normal, that quote seems more important than ever before. Listening, humbling ourselves and forgiveness are actions we may need to lean into just a bit more.

It’s been a messy few years, now as we face 2024 my hope is we can all show a bit more of our gentler side when embracing other humans. Turning our focus not completely off our youth, but recognizing the grown-ups need kindness and care just as much.

None of us are perfect, after all. We each make mistakes, embrace unpopular opinions or simply have a bad day. At the end of it all may we all embrace the same simple notion: to leave the planet, as well as its people, better than we found them.

Happy New Year.