What am I most grateful for? When I was first asked this question before Thanksgiving break I couldn’t help but chuckle. The past year my life, like many others, was flipped upside down. I watched as all my hopes and dreams for my final years of high school fluttered into the fleeting wind. I experienced firsthand the true meaning of isolation. I lost freedom, safety & security, and my childhood era. With that said, these experiences are nothing in comparison to lives that have been lost during the pandemic and the agony so many have faced.
At first, these circumstances made me believe that there was nothing to be grateful for. As the long march of virtual time went on I realized this sentiment was shared by my peers. Online chats in my classes demonstrated the disgruntled opinions of our youth. Things like “What do we have to celebrate this year anyway?” or “If I could get one gift, it would be the end of this pandemic,” littered our conversations. It was in those chats that I felt secure in my pessimism but saddened by the condition of our lives.
That all changed, though, when each of our virtual classroom screens filled with little Zoom boxes—some with faces, others blank—were asked by our teachers to truly reflect on the question. In that moment answers arose that could have lit up even the darkest room with hope. Students spoke about how they valued seeing their families more and learning about themselves; the importance of life and dignity throughout the chaos of social injustice, hunger, and bizarre politics. We reflected on our elders, whom we love so dearly, and the promise that we may see them again tomorrow. Most of all, we came to appreciate true friendships, not the “Snapchat” kind, but the socially-distanced moments of sitting across a street on two separate curbs or walking around the lake talking in real-time.
Just like students, North Denver’s neighborhood values have come out in so many ways. Family and community members have stepped up to navigate this unpredictable new world. Those who are holding down jobs or hanging onto fluctuating businesses have fought tirelessly to provide a sense of normalcy, determination, and resilience for their loved ones. For those who have needed help, the community has risen to lend a loving hand.
Northside Pride, love, and kindness embody this holiday season. There are multiple places around our community that are holding food drives, homeless warm-gear collections, and toy collections this year. For those of you willing to donate to amazing organizations like the Bienvenidos Food Bank who have kept our community fed, bring your non-perishable items to Little Man Ice Cream throughout the month of December to help a family with a holiday meal.
Other ways to love local? If you are able to buy gifts, choose one from our neighborhood businesses. Many of them are trying to stay afloat. While Amazon may be faster, there is nothing as precious as something from the heart of our community. If you can’t afford a present, the biggest thing we can give for free is our happiness. Continue to spread cheer with a masked smiling face and be the light we all wish to see in this world.
I hope you will reflect on what you are most grateful for this year and take those values into the holiday season. Know that there is still much to cheer for. Know that if you ever fall down there are hundreds of people who will help you back up. Being a part of this community has taught me so much. It’s created a family like no other, and, for that, I will always have gratitude.
If nothing I have said has convinced you to be grateful, the one thing I know we may all rejoice in is the fact that 2021 is just around the corner. With that comes the promise of vaccines, lifting mandates, and a world where you may hug all those you love again. Now that is something to celebrate. Cheers!
Shaina Walsh is a student at North High School