The holiday season is when we would normally be celebrating with family and friends, all coming together to eat way too much food and watch loved ones open gifts. The reality is COVID-19 has caused us to alter our holiday plans, and this year’s holiday season may look quite a bit different. That being said, perhaps this is the year to appreciate the true meaning of the holidays – to see how blessed we are and to spread kindness to others, even in the midst of all the darkness that surrounds us.
1. Family and friends. With over 250 thousand deaths across the country (and 1.34 million deaths worldwide), many families will be missing loved ones this holiday season – children, parents, grandparents, husbands, and wives. Many people will not be here to celebrate the holidays, and many homes will have an empty seat at the table this year. Although I will not physically be with family or friends this holiday season, I am grateful for a loving family and caring friends.
2. Health. With over 80 thousand people currently hospitalized across the country, hospitals are full of severely ill patients, some of whom will die. And with almost 200 thousand new cases a day, many more will be battling the illness at home this holiday season. Seeing so many people suffering and dying every day, I am grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones.
3. Food on the table and a place to call home. With so many people losing their jobs, many people have become homeless and unable to afford food. Despite the shortage of some of my favorite foods on the grocery store shelves and the inability to frequent my favorite restaurants, I am grateful for the food in my fridge and pantry. Although I will not be going home to celebrate the holidays with family or friends, I am grateful for the ability to celebrate the holidays at home with food on the table.
4. Safety. With all the misinformation and disinformation going around during this pandemic, in addition to the amount of division currently in the country, the level of racism and violence has risen. Being Chinese myself, I have had my share of racial slurs, verbal abuse, and physical attacks – from been told to “go back to China” and to “stop killing us with your Chinese virus,” to being spat on, to being physically shoved against the wall, and having a box thrown at me. Although I have experienced more racism and violence during this pandemic, I cannot help but realize how lucky I still am and many others in this world. And I will be grateful for the safety that so many have fought for us long ago.
5. Technology. With the current border closures, quarantine and stay-at-home orders, and physical distancing recommendations to reduce the virus’s spread, I am grateful for the ability to text message and video chat with family and friends. I could not imagine this pandemic without smartphones, the internet, and most importantly, Skype and Zoom.
Watching the growing pandemic around the world and bearing witness to the enormous amounts of suffering and death has served as a reminder to appreciate the smaller things in life. May we remember to contact family and friends and reach out to those who are missing loved ones, those who are spending the holidays alone, and those working this holiday season. May we remember that our technology’s power now allows us to order food from restaurants and gifts online to be delivered to loved ones. And may we remember those who are struggling and donate to local food banks and shelters. Although the festivities may be different this year, may this be a true reminder of what the holiday season is all about – appreciating what we have, being grateful for the many blessings we have in life, and spreading as much kindness as possible during this holiday season.
Christine Lau is a physician.
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