Words are not often difficult for me, but as I reflect on all that was 2020 and consider both the uncertainties and possibilities of 2021, I’m having a hard time finding the words. It’s challenging to adequately put language to the experience of these times. I know I’m not alone in that struggle. One of the strategies in helping youth find their words is encouraging them to name their feelings…I think I’ll give that a shot.
Like so many of you, I imagine, less than happy feelings are present. Feelings like Anxiety, Grief, Anger, and Exhaustion come to mind. Those feelings come with good reason. Along with the rest of the world, we at Partners have been in a constant state of flux. We’ve been adjusting all programming regularly as we ride the roller coaster of COVID-19. We’ve struggled to find the most effective ways to be accountable to public safety needs during a health pandemic and also to ensure the youth we serve are not abandoned in the associated pandemic of isolation. We’ve been able to keep our full team in place, adopt remote work as needed, appreciate a certain level of financial security, and feel grateful we can do so–all while simultaneously agonizing for youth and families who don’t share those same privileges. In addition to the burden of our own losses and hardships, we feel the weight of burdens carried by the youth and families in our communities who already faced adversity and had limited resources, and we work to lift even a small portion of their load. We share sadness as restaurants and small businesses–our valued community partners–struggle. Along with you, we’ve watched in horror as people around our country have died, some from COVID and others from acts of violence born out of an increasingly volatile social and political climate. We wrestle with hard conversations about equity and privilege and at times we feel defeated by a polarized climate.
But, the story doesn’t end there. Thankfully, complex as we are, we humans can have multiple feelings about the same circumstances and as I reflect on the current circumstances, I can’t only feel the bad. I also feel Pride. I am proud of the team here at Partners for their grit, and their creativity, for their commitment to the greater good and for their grace. Together, we served over 500 youth in 2020 through some traditional and some not-so-traditional programming. Drive-thru events, student support at learning centers, mentor/mentee matches and support, activity kits on doorsteps, assisting with food/supply needs for families, virtual game nights, virtual fundraisers, small and masked group activities…the list goes on. Human connection is a basic need and we worked hard to provide it. Typing all that leads me to the next feeling–Gratitude. I’m grateful to those who invest in connection. I’m grateful to the donors who gave, and those who gave more than in past years! I’m grateful for state and federal support. I’m grateful for volunteers who chose to get involved and stay engaged and I’m grateful for the strength and resilience of the youth and families we serve. All of that leaves me Hopeful. I am hopeful that the trials of 2020 will make us better. Stronger. More efficient and adaptable. With challenge comes triumph. With adversity comes opportunity.
At Partners, we enter the new year with a fresh brand, expanded programming, an updated vision and mission, and strategic objectives we’re excited to pursue. I invite you to journey with us into a new year of investing in the mental health and wellbeing of the youth and individuals of our communities and in growing the number of youth, volunteers, and supporters who make up the Partners community! Thank you for journeying with us so far – we couldn’t do what we do without you.
Wishing you health and peace!