Every New Year, I try to reflect on the year past and look forward to the new one that is ahead. This year certainly feels different. There was an abundance of loss, uncertainty, anxiety, pain and confusion. But there was also an abundance of good things as well. People came together and love and light were shown in the midst of an otherwise dark period. Just as in year’s past, I remain hopeful and excited for the possibilities of a New Year.
As one of your Gastonia City Council Members I wish to express my sympathies to the friends and family members who have lost loved one’s due to this pandemic. Without diving into the diverse political and ideological opinions of COVID, the human toll has been astronomical in Gastonia with many of our neighbors leaving us way too soon. I also wish to express my deepest sympathies to those who have experienced grave economic losses including our business community, which continues to struggle to stay open in the midst of unprecedented challenges and obstacles. I know personally of the struggles of many small business owners who have put their livelihood, money and energy into their business only to see it imploding before their eyes. That too is devastating and the emotional toll that goes along with the economic impact cannot nor should not be minimized.
We saw the struggle of friends and neighbors who wished to be heard and understood coming out in all kinds of ways, ways that made us take notice and discuss our past, present and future as a diverse and growing community. At times we saw the respect and love of humanity take a back seat to anger, prejudice and fear and we also saw those charged with serving and protecting us risking their lives to do so in a political and ideological climate that was boiling over into the streets.
I saw the best in people who peacefully demonstrated and advocated for greater understanding and avenues for dialogue. And I witnessed the worst in us in heated rhetoric and ugly displays of misplaced anger that painted whole groups of people as tainted based on the actions of a few. It is my hope and prayer that our desire for unity in the community leads to more ways of working together for the common good while finding ways to listen to all voices. We need to find ways to understand our past and shape our future in a manner that brings healing and understanding to all our constituents.
I also was privileged to see up close the outpouring of pure love and grace to a hurting community. This past year saw people rise up and give in the midst of all that was dark and ugly. Churches held food banks, nonprofits assisted those in crisis, health providers and mental health professionals gave healing to the wounded and policy makers worked to try and help those in need with critical utility assistance, free public transportation, mask give-aways and logistical assistance with many groups who worked to feed and serve the hungry and hurting in our community.
And toward the end of the year we saw our local police officers dealing with the injury of fellow officers in the line of duty as well as mourning the loss of friends and colleagues in other County municipalities. The past couple months have strained an already overworked and underappreciated profession. And yet they continue to run towards the danger as we run away and continue to protect our community while dealing with their own personal and professional struggles. That is what first responders do. They serve and protect and for that I am greatly thankful.
A lot has happened in 2020 and Gastonia was not immune to it’s personal and community impact. It was a challenge and it was a year filled with emotional turmoil and personal angst…But through it all Gastonians showed who they were time and time again. In the center of the storm you stood, you gave and you cared even when you were hurting yourselves. That is who we are. Thank you from me to you for being a beacon of light in an otherwise dark time.
So, for 2021 I wish for you all love, hope and peace. I pray that as we see light at the end of this pandemic tunnel that you stay healthy. And I hope that all of those people on the front lines of caring, ministering, protecting, advocating, assisting and healing receive an extra dose of understanding and joy. God knows they can use it. Happy New Year Gastonia and may 2021 be a year filled with new beginnings, renewed hope, thoughtful change and greater unity.
Gastonia City Council Member