The third theme to emerge from the stories we collected of 2020 reflects an essential, life-affirming human response in the face of unprecedentedly difficult circumstances … an impulse that is one of the building blocks of our species’ instinct for survival, and a bedrock of a functional society. And it is this:
The ability of humans to show up for each other — and for ourselves — in extraordinary ways, when the circumstances call for us to do so.
Like the essential workers — the grocery store clerks, the people who harvest and process our food, the delivery drivers, the first responders — all of whom showed up to do jobs in public spaces, so that we could continue to get the supplies and help that we need to survive.
Like the frontline healthcare workers — who showed up every day, in often unprotected environments, to save lives; or to heal people recovering from injuries, to assist people having babies, to help people reliant on longterm care.
Like the small kindnesses we offered to and received from one another — even, sometimes, people we didn’t know — because we sensed how stepping up our active displays of empathy might make someone’s day a little brighter, or a little easier, in the face of so much collective stress and difficulty.
And like how we showed up for ourselves — by seeking and finding respite in nature; by discovering the power of presence; by digging a little deeper, and learning how to root ourselves in what is real and true during such an uncertain time.
Our capacity for resilience is remarkable. And that’s not to suggest that we are all resilient and buoyant every day. I know I’m not.
We get bogged down,
we have stretches of days that feel swampy and endless,
we reach the bottom of our reserves …
… and, also …
we are renewed by a walk among the trees,
we are lifted by the generosity of others,
we are motivated by our sacred responsibility to one another,
we wake up some mornings with a fresh ability to face whatever comes our way that day.
And isn’t that feature built into our very nature? We are made to move forward, to learn new skills, to grow, and to keep reaching for life.
We did all of those things this past year, because we had to.
Because our survival depended upon it.
And we did it.
We showed up.
People: we are extraordinary.
In little and beautiful ways
Against the backdrop of a world that’s gone sideways
Some kindness can make us feel less like strangers
In putting it all on the line
Suiting up to save somebody’s life
Some goodness requires a step into danger
People, we’ve been through the fire
And we know who’ll run in when the building is burning
People, we’re coming through the other side
We are holding on tight, we will keep the world turning
Look at us: we are extraordinary people
Look at us: we are extraordinary
With time itself falling apart
All the days stretching out into dark
We found out that the only thing real is this moment
The flowers, the birds, and the trees
Exist in perpetual uncertainty
And so do we; now we can say that we own it
And look at this little one here
Unaware of what there is to fear
Crawling, then walking, and reaching toward life
from 2020101 (2021)
track released March 8, 2021
written and performed by Shannon Curtis
produced, mixed, and mastered by Jamie Hill
at Department of Energy Management, Tacoma
co-produced, programmed and recorded by Shannon
additional programming and recording by Jamie
all rights reserved