Last year was full of ups and downs across the country and around the world. Despite the pandemic, some people celebrated accomplishments, traveled to graduations or weddings, and moved to new places. Now that it’s 2022, people have crafted New Year’s resolutions, written down their bucket list and identified personal goals. In doing so, it’s natural to look back through the past year and cull out what we’ve learned or identify insights we’ve had.
Maybe for you, 2021 was a year to forget because there were huge obstacles and insurmountable problems. Maybe your year was full of heartbreak and the loss of life.
Recently, approximately 1,000 homes were destroyed in a wildfire in Superior. The fire started on Dec. 30 and raced through subdivisions and fields at speeds of 110 mph. Over 6,000 acres went up in flames in 24 hours. In Colorado Springs, we know all too well the long and difficult path ahead for these families. In our gut, we know the sounds and smells of precious things that became ash and burned metal. Yet, we understand why our friends whose homes were lost in the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires don’t discuss what happened nor how it upended their lives.
For many people, 2021 was a year of personal loss as COVID claimed the lives of over 800,000 Americans. Nearly everyone I know has lost a family member, colleague, or acquaintance from COVID. On July 14, my mom lost her half-sister, Kelly, to complications of COVID at the young age of 64. Eight weeks and one day later, my mom passed away at age 88 in her home of 63 years in Centennial. She lived a remarkable and inspiring life as an educator, author, civil rights leader as well as a wife, a sister and a mother. I read mom’s Wikipedia page often (you can find it under Elinor “Ellie” Miller Greenberg) and now, I’m reading through her master’s and doctoral degree dissertations.
As we sort through her home of 63 years, I browse through photos, handwritten articles, artwork from around the world, and things that bring forth memories. I treasure each one, not because it might have a value if sold but because of the family story behind it and the memories which remain clear. There’s a handwritten scroll from China, a typed letter from the White House in 1959, a book signed by Michelle Obama, and a set of well-used bamboo placemats. There are handwritten charts of stock prices that my dad updated daily, and a folded American flag from 2009 when he passed away. This beautiful home I grew up in seems almost the same as it was decades ago.
I had remarkable parents, an excellent education, and an established sense of community, connection and contribution. I have lifelong friends in Denver and am close with many of my mom’s colleagues. I feel fortunate and privileged. Deep down, I’m keenly aware that I’ve lived in safe and secure places free of war and terrorism, and I don’t take for granted the opportunity and freedom in everyday life in America.
Recently, my husband, David, and I met a refugee family of five from Afghanistan. They fled Kabul with one suitcase and the clothes on their backs, leaving behind relatives, a home and a business. It’s not unlike my late father-in-law, Keva Richman, whose parents escaped Poland in 1939 when Keva was 3 years old. The Afghani family had a suitcase and less than $20 and made their way to the United States in early September. They moved in with a host family in Colorado Springs, who provided a place to land, a roof over their heads, food and clean water, plus friendship and support. The host family provided a base of safety and security, resources and rest, and the warm embrace of a community.
Over the past few months, we’ve taken the family to shop at Walmart, and laughed together at the zoo near the giraffes and hippos. A village of friends and neighbors have donated clothes, cash, and now, furniture as they settle into an apartment nearby. They’re grateful for donations of books, a laptop from a local foundation, and other essentials for life in America.
We feel fortunate to have met them and we hope to learn some of their language while they’re rapidly learning English.
In September, I lost my mom and soon afterward, we met the family from Afghanistan. Helping them has made us stronger, made our hearts bigger, and it’s enabled me to accept the loss of my mom just a bit easier. Everyone is warm and safe; what a privilege that truly is.
Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant. She and her family have lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. Contact Julie with comments or ideas for her column at email@example.com.
Source : https://gazette.com/pikespeakcourier/the-privilege-of-american-life-from-my-perspective/article_be686aba-73cf-11ec-8c3d-df0e27dcf9d2.html845