We have been through a lot this year and it is just honestly physically and mentally exhausting.
Being away from loved ones for months because of lockdown restrictions or just the fear of risking them of contracting the virus through you, working endless hours at home with some even trying to take care of their children and pets like they’re on 24/7 heavy-duty, having limited social interactions with just simple hi and hello or small talk with a cashier at the grocery store or a thank you to the delivery guy, not getting enough sleep because of anxieties, your body refusing to function from all the stress and fatigue.
Many have experienced death one way or another, some lost their livelihoods they’ve built for years, some lost their only jobs that pay the bills, and some lost their homes.
But amid the stories of pain, tragedies, and deaths, 2020 has also awakened the spirit of empathy and giving. We have witnessed people who have risen beyond adversity and made this year their defining time of success. Most importantly, we have seen medical workers and their heroic works, risking their lives at the frontline.
To wrap up 2020, here are some inspiring stories that we hope could make you smile a bit especially during this holiday season.
The Story of Success Against All Odds
January opened 2020 with an inspiring story of Ryan Matthews from Texas, a man who was a victim of a racist and oppressive system who had been given a chance at life.
In April 1997, Matthews, 17 was charged with killing a 43-year-old white businessman. And while he maintained his innocence and the very fact that there was no real evidence linking him to the crime, he was still found guilty by 11 white jurors and 1 black juror. Two years later, he was sentenced to death.
It may have been the end of his life but in a turn of events, his innocence was proved and the real killer finally confessed. After 5 long years on death row, he was finally exonerated. When asked what he wanted to do the moment he got out, he said he wanted to go to school.
Just before 2019 ended, he graduated at TWU in Denton, Texas with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences. His story inspired many to go back to school and among those are his sister and 71-year-old mother. Monique Coleman, Matthew’s sister, said, “So I decided to go back and pursue my PhD because hopefully, I’ll be able to do some legislative work and get some of that wrongful conviction and reintegration legislation changed.”
“I am because of what happened, but I can’t because it would stop me from moving forward… I’m trying to be the best I can be,” Matthews said.
Today, Black people still experience racial oppression and worse, many have died just because of their skin color. While this is a story of success and inspiration that you can still turn your life around, we should not romanticize it. We must fight the system that perpetuates racial oppression and prevent another Ryan Matthews. Know more how to donate to the Black Lives Matter movement here.
An Unexpected Friendship in the Time of Corona
Just last December 4, a Twitter thread went viral and it’s for a good reason. One Twitter user shared her recent digital interaction with a French grandma and did not expect how it might actually blossom into a beautiful friendship.
Millie Jacoby, a 21-year-old British student who studies at Warwick University, signed up to the scheme pairing language students with elderly French people as she thought would be a great way to improve her language skills and also get to know somebody who might be lonely as some of these elderly people have been left isolated due to the pandemic.
“My French grandma, as we call them, is in a retirement home and might not be having too much social interaction because of the pandemic so I thought it was the perfect time to do something like this.”
In an interview with Jacoby by BBC, she noted how the two of them instantly hit it off. “She was just so lovely from the first few sentences.”
“We talked about travelling. We spoke about the times I’ve been to France and what I thought of it. We spoke about the differences between what her life was like as a young person compared to mine.”
In the time of corona, many have been left isolated alone and a simple, casual conversation can already go a long way. If you want to know more about the program, you can check it out here.
The Frontline Battle
Every day, healthcare workers run into the frontline risking their lives to save other people. And these people are not just people who try to keep people alive by using equipment and medical technology. They offer an emotional lifeline for those who have been fighting the hard battle of a virus that the world has never seen before.
Nic Brown, a 38-year-old IT executive, contracted the virus in mid-March not knowing how or when. As he sat down in isolation in the medical intensive care unit (MICU) at Cleveland Clinic, the staff of nurses and doctors used the glass pane as a communication bridge instead of a barrier that separates Nic from the rest of the world.
“Every day I was there, especially when I was on a ventilator and full life support, the staff would write on the window the goals for me to try and reach each day,” he said. “They would encourage me. One day someone wrote, ‘We will get you home.’”
As he moved down from the MICU to a step-down unit, he penned a short letter to the staff who had been there for him. It said, “I watched you work hard to keep me and others alive, unable to thank you for the time that you poured into me — and although I will probably never get the chance to pour that same love and support into you, I want you to know that I think you all are rockstars.”
“Part of why I left the note on the window is because I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such selfless people in my life. I really saw the love of God through them. They don’t know me, but they cared for me like I was a member of their family. It’s been life-altering,” says Nic.
The fight against COVID-19 does not miraculously end with a vaccine. Every day, these health workers still fight the good fight. Let us consider them every time we think that we are being deprived of our freedom and privilege to go on with our lives. They’re tired and exhausted yet they never give up. Thank your local health workers by wearing a mask and following all the health and safety protocols.
Still confused why masks are important? Read here.
Turn that inspiration into action. That is how we will grow as individuals and progress as a society.