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Dear friends,

With the end of 2020 here, it’s tempting to just want to put it behind us and look ahead to 2021. No one will blame us for saying “Good bye” to a year of divisive turmoil, social separation, distancing and, for all too many of us, a year of heartbreaking loss.

As forgivable as it may be to dwell on the emotional toll of the past year, we would miss the good that has come out of our collective hardship. The pandemic has been a reminder of what matters most.

You and I, all of us, have seen families and communities come together as never before. We’ve seen neighborhood musicians performing impromptu street concerts, entire high rises  applauding healthcare workers, families sitting down to dinner together, people walking and meeting, really meeting, neighbors they’ve only waved to in the past.

My daughter, Isabella, on one of many distanced “play dates” with her neighbor friend. This summer, her friend inspired her to persevere and learn to ride a bike!

As schoolyards and parks and playgrounds were closed, communities rediscovered the importance of open spaces. With nowhere else to go, children took to the streets to play. Badminton and cornhole and hacky sack moved out of backyards and onto front lawns with neighbors inviting passersby to play.

Facebook, NextDoor, Twitter and other social media enabled us to share creative ideas to help parents struggling to find alternatives for canceled activities. I remember the stuffed animals that popped up in apartment windows and suburban front yards as a sort of scavenger hunt for the younger ones.

All across the globe, sidewalks became chalk art canvases. Streets filled with kids and adults riding bicycles. Young children painted rocks with inspirational messages, hiding them for the delight of finders.

With so many people working from home, the meaning of work-life balance became real. Families learned to share the household chores. Parents rediscovered the joy in playing with their children, even in such simple things as taking walks together, playing catch and hide and seek. Families gathered to play board games and solve so many jigsaw puzzles that sellers ran out.

I’m lucky enough to have my parents in our “bubble”. Rick (my father), Paul (my husband) and Theo (my baby!), out for a walk, during our one getaway to Cape Cod.

As they had in generations past, grandparents stepped in, some moving in, when they safely could to help relieve working parents who lost child care when facilities closed. Others who couldn’t be there in person turned to FaceTime and Zoom to stay in touch with their grandchildren, reading them bedtime stories, singing with them and joining in the board games.

As a society, we kept our social distance and practiced COVID safety, but the importance of getting out, being active and enjoying open space was made abundantly clear as soon as parks reopened. Almost instantly they were filled with joggers, and strollers and kite fliers. Families relegated to the indoors because of the pandemic and weather, took hikes and picnicked together.

Of all the messages to emerge from the pandemic I think perhaps the most powerful and hopefully the most enduring is the one that first appeared on hand-lettered signs in windows and on sidewalks so many months ago: “We are in this together.”

COVID touched each of us differently, so many tragically. My heart goes out to those who lost a friend or a loved one; to those whose lives have been riven in so many ways. But out of this calamity, we have seen how we are better and stronger together. We are living the change every day. Families have rediscovered the fun of being and doing together. COVID has made us rethink how we live, how we work and, yes, how we play. Among the many values we have all rediscovered is the importance of play, of open spaces, parks and playgrounds.

Most inspiringly, the pandemic has brought us closer as families, neighbors and communities. In the face of this grim and deadly disease, together we have shown endurance, creativity and remarkable resilience.

As we look ahead to a year where vaccines and safe practices finally allow us to again hug loved ones and resume so many of the activities we’ve had to forego, my hope is  we all remember the message that is “We are in this together.”

My hope for the New Year is that we carry with us the meaning of that simple expression that as, families, neighbors, a community, a society we share much more than we ever realized.

To all of you, our friends, I and the entire Goric family wish you a happy, healthy and safe New Year.

Laura Guscott