A year ago, I wrote a USA Today Op Ed in which I made the bold suggestion that at least one person at your holiday dinner table would probably be suffering from loneliness. Navigating these extraordinary and uncertain times in 2020 has challenged us all. Prior to COVID-19, the United States was experiencing the effects of this new chronic condition called “loneliness.” Little did we know that we would face a pandemic that would put this condition on steroids. Unfortunately, the twin sisters to Covid-19 have been that loneliness and social isolation have since risen in every age group around the world.
In this past year, we’ve also suffered immense loss and grief from systemic racism, and faced unprecedented political and social divisions. Still, throughout these trying times, I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, “Unearned suffering is redemptive.” While the suffering that so many of us have endured in the last year was not deserved, we do nonetheless have the redemptive means to act to save someone else from further suffering. None of us wanted nor invited the immense and varied degree of suffering that has entered into our lives one way or another–whether it be food insecurity, loss of employment, housing and physical connections and the empty chair at the dining room table this holiday season reminding us of the pain of having lost a loved one to COVID. However, and especially this holiday season, as we enter into 2021, Dr. King’s words remind us that it is within our reach to find the golden nuggets of opportunities… to be redemptive and find ways to eliminate others from further suffering.
In 2021, perhaps we can all start with just taking the time to listen to each other’s stories. This holiday season take the time to ask someone you know— perhaps a colleague, friend or neighbor—to share their story. Listen as they tell you what life has been like for them lately. Think about what they might need. And then do something! Compassion is equal parts empathy and action.
The Tramuto Foundation and its partner, Health eVillages, listened to the stories of nearly 150 families who shared openly via an email their pain and suffering this holiday season. I am pleased to share with you that all of those families are being provided with funds to host a holiday dinner and to use some of the proceeds to bring cheer to their families through gifts.
We enter this holiday season with optimism about getting control of the pandemic. We look forward to the day when the new vaccines will finally lead to Herd Immunity. But we also have the power and the opportunity to drive Herd Compassion and Herd Kindness as well. This would indeed be a silver lining to a profoundly difficult time. Humanity, tenderness and compassion for others can be the new abnormal for 2021 and beyond.
As I have often said, it makes no difference how much you did, what makes the difference is you did something. It makes no difference how much you give, what makes the difference is you gave something. It makes no difference how many you help, what makes the difference is that you helped someone.