• Bill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday – 1/1/2021 Day One of the Second Decade of the Second Millenia


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville


Looking back, the most memorable day of 2020 was Saturday, February 29th. COVID-19 was coming. We realized it would be a good time to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before the world shut down. The sense it was occurring was already in the air. The picture above was from an installation we saw about science and the future. These faces have been modeled from DNA found in gum, hair and cigarette butts on New York City sidewalks. It is the work of Heather Dewey-Hagborg. We leave a piece of ourselves on everything we touch and do in this world, often in more than we realize and with greater impact than we know.


It was a wonderful day out seeing art, in public with people. We had an amazing lunch, and I recall the server asking us if we were celebrating anything special, I recall saying that indeed we were – a day off, together. We saw a bunch of medieval European art and in particular a 500-year-old woodcut piece related to the Yersinia pestis plague of 14th century Europe. It influenced a work Julie then painted, Corvidius XIX – Plague Raven. The day stuck with her as well.


A week after that I performed the Heimlich on a woman at a restaurant in Easton PA. A week after that I was sitting in a large, empty hotel in Western Pa as things started to shut down. I drove back home across the state as the world changed and lockdown began. This sequence of memories are etched into one, starting with sublime, moving through the traumatic and finally to the surreal. It is funny how memories link like this.


Everything then changed. COVID will clearly be a delineation of eras. It is well worth noting that we get to define the “after era”, because it is actually what is happening right now. Work has consumed a lot of my time over the months since then for a lot of reasons. It is my opinion that the addiction reverberations of the pandemic will eventually eclipse the impact of the actual virus. We saw it immediately in the recovery community, it will inevitably play out across society in the coming decade. We need to pay attention to that right now.


To be transparent, I cannot honestly say I thrived this year, but I did survive and experienced some resiliency. What I gained out of the year is a deeper appreciation for small things. Our dogs have been a great source of comfort and support. A simple meal, a smile, a peaceful moment. I became a better writer this year and spent more times in the woods, with a camera as part of my self-care. Sensitive to the feelings of those around me, I have come to more deeply appreciate how much expression can be picked up by looking a person in the eyes. Often that is all I have had to work with when out in the world. The tempo of life has changed and the slower pace has forced me to listen to things I often did not fully value before.


I suspect that paying attention to the small things makes one a more empathetic person and ignoring them makes for shallowness and a lack of concern for anything beyond the tip of our own noses. That I also learned more deeply this year. Perhaps the small things of the before time will be more centrally valued by all of us moving forward.


What made that leap year Saturday special was experiencing the simple pleasures of society and spending time experiencing new things. More than anything else, I have grown this year to appreciate things that seemed routine in the before times, going to a concert, a museum, or a restaurant. Someday, I will relish writing in a café surrounded by people or having friends over for dinner and face to face conversation. I know I am not alone.


Whatever will 2021 and the next decade bring? Perhaps we will experience a deeper appreciation for community and our common bonds with each other. My wish for us all in the coming decade is to experience a greater sense of connection, hope and purpose.


I think what each of does matters and either contributes to the greater sum of our whole or diminishes us all. I am grateful for the lessons on my path, they seem clear. I hope I am able to grow from them. It can be a challenge at times. Grateful for these lessons. Grateful to be here, now.


What are you grateful for today?

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