By Dr. Richard Koral, Leader
As I write this, we are just entering the traditional holiday season. Nearing Thanksgiving, we’ll soon slide right into Black Friday, Online Monday and Giving Tuesday. Then, Channukah comes quickly this year, followed by Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year. It is a fulsome month of family gatherings, office parties, holiday escapes, school vacations, presents, cards, bonuses, insurance re-enrollment, New Year resolutions and perhaps some New Year’s resolve.
But mostly it’s about those family gatherings. Year after year, we find that some are eagerly anticipated, and some are sorely missed. Some are barely endured, while some are avoided altogether. But whatever one’s relationship with family may be, the holiday season involves a reckoning with one’s connections and relations, be they close or attenuated.
How strange this 2020 holiday season will be. Given the constraints brought on by the Covid pandemic, in everything we do and plan we must consider the impact of the coronavirus. It is the uninvited, though possible, guest at all our holiday dinner tables. Whatever plans we hope to make for our families, the virus will have its unwelcome say as well.
In everything we do and plan we must consider the impact of the coronavirus.
I just attended a NYSEC staff meeting. Our small and dauntless staff holds a meeting every week to connect from our different work locations and to maintain our liaisons and work patterns. This time, people spoke about their Thanksgiving plans – how they considered what to do, and how they have to pare back their plans in opting for the safer course.
One is not going to a niece’s house for a cold dinner out on the porch. Another is not going to their parents’ home so as to avoid bringing that little bit of New York with them — or to avoid picking up what lurks out there and bringing it back here. Each decision is a calculation of probabilities, a weighing of risks, a measurement of how much risk one has the appetite to bear. We check the county infection rates out there and compare them to what we have here. Is it safer to go or to stay… safer to remain apart, or safe enough to meet?
It is topsy-turvy. We express our love and concern by not going, by not sharing a festive meal, by not lifting a glass of wine, by not embracing each other. We are protecting our loved ones by shunning them.
Of course, there is the consolation that this sacrifice is only for a limited time and once the cure is found we’ll resume our customary ways. A faith in science and in the ingenuity of cadres of researchers worldwide sustains our hopes. For the most part, we are finding our community in the shared purpose of avoiding the virus and taking on the practices that are safest.
We will forever be known as the Covid Generation: the ones who hunkered down while the virus raged, those who endured the inconvenience and the solitude, the ones who sheltered in place and ate alone, who saw grandma through the window and voted through the mail, who learned how to smile above their masks, through their eyes only
When it is finally over and once again safe to come out, we will have to devise a new holiday dinner – one that celebrates the very act of coming together. Maybe we’ll call it “Vaccination Day” and nothing will be served that was canned.