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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

In Other Words: We Have to Look Back in Order to Live Forward


In the cozy darkness of December I like to cast my eye over the events and lessons of the year as well as to look forward to the upcoming year. As difficult as this year has been, it is worthwhile to review it to see what we learned.  Indulge me as I review an extraordinary year and look for the common denominators of a few columns and events from this year. 

Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 

We saw young leaders remind us of our collective duty to each other. In June, Ella Barnes organized a march to recognize and support our minority population. Hundreds of residents showed up to support neighbors and friends in a peaceful way. Ella told me recently that “The march from this summer did not cure the racism that our community and this country holds but it did begin a way for people to see that their actions are effective and loving and protecting your black brothers and sisters is the only way we can continue to move forward together.”

Photo: Rudy Garns

The community showed up again recently to help young Aidan Silverton’s annual crusade to help the homeless and disadvantaged children of the area. In his fourth year, this twelve-year-old collected close to 2,000 items to distribute. He collected far more than any previous year thanks to you. Aidan says that he,”learned that most people are really generous.”

Ella and Aidan have much in common - they care deeply about their community, they don’t want to see anyone suffer, and they took a risk to help. They could have failed in a colossal public way, but they didn’t. We need to take a cue from them. They took the risk that the community would stand with them. And it turns out we are so much better together than we are apart. 

Photo: Amy Silverton

One interview that sticks with me is with Nick Fite. He lost the love of his life to addiction and he is now raising their child alone. Even though I want to just cry for his loss and his suffering, he left me with a list of reminders that all of us need to tape to the mirror as a daily reminder.

Everybody suffers from something.

Be forgiving.

Don’t be judgmental.

Love each other.

Accept people for who they are.

Your words reflect who you are.

Photo: Nick Fite

Finally I was reminded that we are capable of doing much more than we ever thought possible by doing something as simple as walking or giving away water. Lelia Wendel revealed something when she said, “Our family mission is that ‘Wendel’s love’ and we try to find ways to bless people.” So they did a simple thing - leaving free bottles of water for people passing by their home on South Fort Thomas Avenue. It is a simple blessing motivated by a family mission to love.  By doing the simplest thing they added to the collective compassion of our community.

And then Alisha Kinsella pushed herself to her limits and climbed a mountain with a group of women. Through her we learned that we are capable of doing so much more than we think if we only pushed ourselves with purpose. And that last part - with purpose - is the important part.

Photo: Alisha Kinsella

And, of course, we cannot forget the corona virus. Jamie Baker Rausch is not only a leukemia survivor but also contracted COVID while pregnant. She overcame the illnesses and delivered a beautiful baby girl. She showed us that no matter what obstacles, problems, or opportunities present to us, we can learn and grow from it. Growth is not easy or painless. Just look at a seed. It has to undergo pressure and internal stress in order to become something bigger, better, more beautiful, more useful. If Jamie can do that then we can get through this pandemic - together. No one should walk alone.

Photo: Jamie Rausch

The big story has been COVID-19 and the various aspects of that. A phrase that keeps popping up in reference to 2020 is “uncertain times.” Yes, we live in an uncertain time but then we have always lived in uncertain times. And we will continue to live in uncertain times. We shouldn’t feel overly anxious about that but we can prepare ourselves to be resilient and to develop the grit to succeed, to learn from failure.

I am fortunate that I get to interview fascinating community members doing interesting things. I am encouraged and inspired by you. You are good teachers. Good role models. Good people. I enjoy every conversation. Even though I participate in it, I dislike small talk. I want to get to the core of a subject and talk about ideas and what we are learning. 

We are far more alike than different. We fret over family, friends, responsibilities, health, making a living, and making a life. We learned the importance of masks and community members who fired up their sewing machines to provide masks for all of us and new terms like “socially distanced.” And we navigated working from home and remote school. Wi-fi became the glue to bind us.  Even though there are attempts to distort politics, religion, education, race, or money with intention to divide us or pit one against the other, the ultimate truth is that we help ourselves when we help another. And that’s the big lesson I take from 2020. 

Søren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  I plan to move forward and I won’t be sad to see 2020 go, but I know that as I step into 2021, I will go a little bit better prepared. 

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