30th November 2020

A NEWS ROOM

GIVE NEWS A LITTLE MORE TIME

With the holidays here, time to honor the American family

It’s the most wonderful time — of a most stressful, and unusual, year.

With millions of Americans poised to travel and gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas (or thinking about it, at least), officials have unveiled new restrictions in hopes of curtailing the spread of COVID-19 amid a nationwide surge in cases. The governors of North Dakota and Utah — states that have resisted mask-wearing — have now mandated that their residents mask up in public and physically distance from others when outside of their households.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has joined other governors in announcing a travel advisory that discourages nonessential out-of-state travel and asks residents who leave to quarantine for two weeks when they return.

If not for the ever-resilient Black Friday sales — both in-store, and online — it might feel like, this year, the holidays were being canceled.

But honestly, that’s not where my stress is coming from. I have a heavy heart these days because I really do miss my mother terribly. She’s alone in our hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. I haven’t seen her since last year.

Thanksgiving together, in her home, is a family tradition that dates back some 40 years. I have so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories, like waking up early to watch the Macy’s Day Parade; beating my brother at football in our snowy backyard; sharing funny stories with my sister and father; and helping mom with the stuffing, to make sure it was perfectly seasoned.

Yet, in many households, the holidays will feel different this year. I think about the quarter of a million families who will never again enjoy a meal with their loved ones because they were lost to the coronavirus. The pain is a reminder that family is our most important institution, especially as other institutions, like democracy, seem so fragile. Even as the ground crumbles beneath our feet, families prevail.

So, as the editorial staff of Time Magazine gathers in the next few weeks — either in person or virtually — to consider candidates for the publication’s “Person(s) of the Year,” I’d like to nominate, without hesitation, the American family.

Think about it. No one has toiled harder this year than families, as moms and dads — often without the help of grandparents — try to hold things together as the pandemic rages.

In too many households, this has meant struggling with food insecurity for the first time ever. Food-insecure families are uncertain about how they will get their next meal, with little or no food available at home.

Here in San Diego County, 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 5 children face food insecurity, according to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. The problem is widespread: A recent food bank distribution event in Dallas, Texas, served 25,000 people, 40 percent of whom were first-time visitors.

For these families, what many of us know as the abundance of Thanksgiving will be nothing more than wishful thinking.

Other households are more fortunate. While not struggling to make ends meet, they are nonetheless trying to pull off another sort of magic trick: managing full-time jobs and carrying out 24/7 parental duties. As schools remain closed — or face closure yet again — remote learning presents daily challenges to families, from unreliable technology to advanced math. For parents who work outside the home, there’s the added stress of finding qualified, reliable and affordable child care.

It should come as no surprise then that the pandemic is taking a toll on our nation’s mental health. A government report cited in HealthDay News found that 41 percent of adults surveyed in June are experiencing “an adverse mental or behavioral health condition,” a sharp rise from 2019. The number of Americans suffering from anxiety disorder has tripled and the number experiencing depression has jumped fourfold. Kids as young as age 3 are suffering from pandemic-induced anxiety.

Still, families soldier on — resilient in the face of adversity. And in the most American of ways, they continue to show kindness and compassion to their neighbors in need. One-third of U.S. households have given money this year to charitable organizations, even amid economic uncertainty. And while in-person volunteering has been curtailed, families find new ways to pitch in from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Given the enduring spirit of the family, even in a year full of challenges, a Time magazine cover is a fitting tribute. So, too, is an even greater honor that the institution of family has already earned: the love and respect of the American people.

Dinkin is president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, a San Diego-based group working to create solutions to challenging issues, including intolerance and incivility. To learn about NCRC’s programming, visit ncrconline.com




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