As we release our final Giving Voice issue of 2020, I cannot help but reflect back on the year. It is the year that wasn’t, in a way—so many cancelled weddings, gatherings, festivals, concerts, courses, and more. We did this in an effort to protect one another from the COVID-19 pandemic, affirming our collective reliance on one another as humans… not just within our borders, but globally.
If you’re thinking, “Well, that is a bit of a rosy take,” I would agree with you. Certainly, we also saw the fractured nature of our society. Not everyone agrees on the proper response, with conflicts and protests sparked amidst pleas from scientists to distance and wear masks. As I write this, the United States has seen the loss of over 260,000 lives, and globally the death toll is rising to nearly 1.5 million.
And we are still grappling with the aftermath of the summertime Black Lives Matter demonstrations, recognizing the pervasive nature of systemic racism. The protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd spread around the world, with cries for reform and justice. This work is far from over—it is just beginning.
Then there were the devastating fires in the American West, burning 8.2 million acres. Floods, a record hurricane season, flattened cornfields, and other natural disasters are a daily reminder that the climate crisis requires immediate action.
How do we process such loss? How do we heal? In her article “An Exhausted College Student,” Kianna Goss expresses what I suspect many of us are feeling—frustration, burnout, and uncertainty. She offers tips for taking care of our mental and physical wellbeing, which I hope you will consider implementing into your own life.
Yet I find a great deal of hope in what I read in these pages—and I think you will, too. These young people may be as exhausted as us, but they are determined to shape the future into one that is equitable and safe. Jenin Mannaa writes about her own journey wearing the hijab, and how she found pride in her identity and support from her peers and teachers. Anjali Yedavalli dreams of a future where women are equally represented in the STEM field. Trent Miles brings to light the child separation crisis happening at our borders and asks us all to speak up. Elizabeth Setti bravely discusses addiction and food disorder issues and offers suggestions on how to seek out help.
I do not know how historians will look back on this year, but I do know that our first issues of Giving Voice demonstrate the values that we will all need moving forward: honesty, compassion, justice, authenticity, self-respect, and collaboration.
“Storms make trees take deeper roots,” Dolly Parton once famously said. My sincerest wish is that we all stand stronger and taller—together—as we enter 2021.
Mae Gilliland Wright, PhD
Giving Voice Editor-in-Chief