Merry and Bright in spite… of 2020

What do you do when you have antsy teens pining for holiday outings that are just not possible in times of COVID? That was the obstacle facing our residential staff, who each year take a lot of pleasure in assuring Vista residents experience a full spectrum of seasonal joy. In this instance, creativity triumphed, and a new tradition was born. Our staff rented a large van and, with residents in tow, drove two hours north to the most organic of holiday settings – snow. The residents were thrilled to experience California snow magic and their happiness reminded me of what the holidays are about in 2020, finding new ways to share joy.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. The senses come to life during the holidays, and each day my main thought is how can I show the people I love most how much they mean to me. So, hmmm, how does that work in a pandemic? Well, just like our residential staff members, I’ve learned to adapt.

The holidays are about three things for me – giving back, connecting with loved ones, and demonstrating compassion. So, while I may not be able to fly to Michigan and open gifts with relatives, I can pay for groceries of the person standing behind me at Trader Joe’s. Random acts of kindness take on a whole new meaning this year. In whichever way you decide to give back and in whatever capacity you’re able to, know that you’ll be making someone’s day brighter than when it began.

The second is coming together for the holidays. It’s important to point out that many are struggling right now – financially, emotionally, and mentally. Not being able to gather with family is yet another blow to a person’s psyche. For Vista’s residents, this is usually a time of year when family members come to visit. However, current circumstances have made that difficult. One tradition we’ve maintained is celebrating Hanukkah with Rabbi Jackie. In our annual lighting of the menorah, residents connect to and commemorate this agency’s beautiful Jewish heritage. Continuing this tradition cements a bond between the current residents and many children from the past, who like them, spent their holidays at Vista.

Lastly, let’s talk about compassion. For the first time in my lifetime, the entire world has collectively endured a life-changing event. It is understandable to focus on what we lost because of COVID, but I often reflect on what we’ve gained, which is a sense of empathy that was not there before. Compassion abounds right now because there is not a single person walking around that couldn’t use some. As I always like to say, the best gifts are the ones everyone can use. While the PS5 may be what many people want, compassion is the must-have item on my list.

This unique holiday season has forced us to exit our comfort zones and find new ways to bring the loving, inclusive spirit of the holidays to more people than ever before. May you all find ways to keep the season merry and bright.