Opinion: A new year filled with hope and optimism

September 13, 2013 Atlanta: Charlie Saye took in the great view of midtown from at Piedmont Park's Lake Clara Meer Friday. A cold front moving through Georgia early Friday will bring noticeably cooler weather to metro Atlanta for the weekend. Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said the weekend will also be dry and less humid, with highs in the low 80s and lows dipping into the low 60s. Atlantans will have plenty of venues to spend their weekend as the Braves have a weekend series against the Padres. The Falcons take on the Rams at 1 p.m. Sunday in the first regular season game at the Georgia Dome. Next door to the Dome, Sesame Street Live: Can't Stop the Singing moves into Philips Arena for two shows Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday. Other weekend events include the Clark-Atlanta University vs. Stillman College football game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Panther Stadium, the For Sisters Only festival Saturday at the Georgia World Congress Center, the Atlanta Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday at Piedmont Park, the One Music Fest, taking place Saturday at Masquerade Music Park and Historic Fourth Ward Park, and the Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival Friday and Saturday at Atlantic Station. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
September 13, 2013 Atlanta: Charlie Saye took in the great view of midtown from at Piedmont Park's Lake Clara Meer Friday. A cold front moving through Georgia early Friday will bring noticeably cooler weather to metro Atlanta for the weekend. Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said the weekend will also be dry and less humid, with highs in the low 80s and lows dipping into the low 60s. Atlantans will have plenty of venues to spend their weekend as the Braves have a weekend series against the Padres. The Falcons take on the Rams at 1 p.m. Sunday in the first regular season game at the Georgia Dome. Next door to the Dome, Sesame Street Live: Can't Stop the Singing moves into Philips Arena for two shows Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday. Other weekend events include the Clark-Atlanta University vs. Stillman College football game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Panther Stadium, the For Sisters Only festival Saturday at the Georgia World Congress Center, the Atlanta Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday at Piedmont Park, the One Music Fest, taking place Saturday at Masquerade Music Park and Historic Fourth Ward Park, and the Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival Friday and Saturday at Atlantic Station. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

This year has been like no other. But somehow we made it. A new year always provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve been through – and to marvel at the possibilities that lie ahead. We approach each new year with a sense of optimism, and 2021 is no different. To capture that sense of hope – and the belief that better days are coming – we asked for some help from our network of community contributors. Today, they share what they have learned in 2020 – and why they’re so optimistic at the dawn of a new year.

The Editorial Board.

AJC Community Contributor Shara Horne
AJC Community Contributor Shara Horne

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

It feels like I blinked and 2020 was over. Maybe that’s because I blinked four million times under the same roof, and they all ran together. But here I am ... looking ahead to 2021 with hope and excitement and relief. If 2020 was the year that we all realized what we took for granted, 2021 will be the year that we’re able to appreciate life’s tiny joys. Parents will enjoy kids’ birthday parties as much as the kids. That first slice of Chuck E. Cheese pizza will taste better than it ever has. (And let’s be honest, it already tasted pretty awesome.) Volunteering at school will feel like the privilege that it is. Eating lunch with our children in the cafeteria will be exciting.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then we will all enter 2021 loving our family members a bit more, loving our friends and coworkers a bit more, loving our favorite restaurants and vacation spots a bit more, and loving our teachers and schools a bit more. We persevered together while separated. I look forward to celebrating together as the new year replaces words like pandemic, social distance and sanitizer with words like vaccine, reunion and hope. America loves a comeback story, and 2021 will be the start of an epic comeback.

Shara Horne

Alaya Horne, 8, of Johns Creek. Contributed by Shara Horne
Alaya Horne, 8, of Johns Creek. Contributed by Shara Horne

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

I am optimistic about 2021. I will be able to see my friends without a mask and go to school in REAL LIFE for, like, the first time in forever instead of virtual school. I will be happy to see my friends. I am looking forward to my best friend Stacey’s hugs. I can go to the mall with my mom and go to Chuck E. Cheese with my friends. It will feel like normal times. If 2021 was a person, they would be the best superhero in the WORLD. 2021 is going to be so much fun!

Alaya Horne, Shara’s 9-year-old daughter

Dr. Behnoosh Momin, of Dunwoody, is an AJC community contributor. CONTRIBUTED
Dr. Behnoosh Momin, of Dunwoody, is an AJC community contributor. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

As I sit in my “new” workplace, I reflect on how optimistic I am for 2021. We have arguably witnessed the worst year of our lives. As I see the rising sun cast a warm glowing orange hue in my home office, I am reminded that there is always a dawn after a night and a light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. I realize I am hopeful because I am optimistic, or should I say, I am optimistic because I am hopeful.

I am optimistic as I reflect on the lessons learned and what we should truly be grateful for. We should be grateful for our frontline essential workers, including our healthcare providers, educators, first responders and all those who are providing our essential needs during this crisis. I am grateful for the humanity I have witnessed in each one of us – neighbor helping neighbor. I am grateful for my community, its institutions and all the volunteers who have provided support during these times. I am grateful for the scientists who have tirelessly worked to develop therapeutics and vaccines.

With this optimism, comes hope. As infectious as this virus is, I am optimistic that hope will be even more infectious in 2021. I am hopeful that our communities will learn to engage in constructive dialogue rooted in respect, dignity and mutual understanding, with the ability to compromise, to make this nation a more resilient union and a stronger democracy. I am confident that when we unite, our momentum will carry us through any challenge that may come our way.

Behnoosh Momin

Community contributor Greg Loughlin. Photo contributed.
Community contributor Greg Loughlin. Photo contributed.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

I’m optimistic about rejoining the crowd. I want something on my calendar to look forward to: To be moved by the sermon. To swing dance on date night. To go to the ballgame. We’re still hunkered down. Some of us are resting; others are grieving. This will take time. But I’m hopeful. So, look out 2021: Broadway, here I come. Alliance Theater, here I come. Atlanta United, here I come. We’ll meet at the neighborhood pub and go from there, OK? I hope to see you soon.

Greg Loughlin

Toyasha Vaughn
Toyasha Vaughn

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

As we begin 2021, I am optimistic about what we can do as the “collective.” The collective are groups of individuals making great change within themselves and spreading kindness everywhere, creating a ripple effect on others. This is done by interacting with unconditional love and true sincerity, by serving others, by shopping ethically, and by practicing responsible stewardship and positivity. It is in this unity where love exists. Through the power of love, we can create a better life and better world. If loneliness is the disease, then our “collective” communities can be the cure.

Toyasha Vaughn

Perry Rettig, AJC community contributor
Perry Rettig, AJC community contributor

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

I am optimistic about 2021, because it is the American ethos to be optimistic. After all, we were founded by optimists, those individuals yearning and striving together to make a better life for themselves and for their communities. Beyond the roar and din you see the public striving to come together, to unite and to re-establish loosened connections. I don’t think anyone can hold us back. It was Winston Churchill who said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they tried everything else.” In nearly every conceivable way, 2020 was a tough year. But 2021 gives me optimism because Americans will do the right thing. You can count on it.

Perry Rettig

Linden Longino
Linden Longino

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

I am optimistic because our scientists and physicians have produced a COVID-19 vaccine, and I believe they will overcome future challenges as a result of this crisis. I am optimistic because in 2020 we learned that our American government system of checks and balances really works. I am optimistic because in my mid-’80s I can see inherited hopes for the future in the eyes of my grandchildren. I am optimistic because I believe good people on this fragile planet have a better understanding now of what it will take for us all to survive, by working together, for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness everywhere. I am optimistic because I want to be optimistic.

Linden Longino

Schuyler Harding
Schuyler Harding

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

I know it sounds a bit cliché, but as we head into 2021, I am optimistic about optimism. The challenges of 2020 brought forth a sense of hope, a renewed focus on the importance of community and service above self, and I believe that will carry over into the new year. Though our individual experiences of 2020 were indeed unique, we all faced similar challenges that reminded us of the many commonalities we human beings share. From that grew stronger community partnerships that prioritized the needs of our neighbors – exemplifying a true emphasis on service above self – and a renewed sense of optimism as we collectively witnessed what good comes from adversity. As the sayings go, pressure makes diamonds, and it takes a little dirt to grow.

Schuyler Harding

Max Lehmann, Dunwoody resident
Max Lehmann, Dunwoody resident

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Usually I am optimistic, so writing about how we should look forward to a new year with hope and joy should be easy for me. But I have struggled with this topic. What is there to be said for 2021 that is both positive and optimistic?

One plus from 2020 is that we have taken time to look inward, to reflect on priorities and to recalibrate how we live. People are seeking new hobbies, reconnecting with old friends and walking, exercising and are actually talking to one another in record numbers. Some are finding that we are not as different as we may have thought. Vaccines are the hope for a future free of the uncertainty and fears we face. We are witness to an unprecedented, worldwide collaboration of scientists, manufacturers, distributors and many other professions to accomplish one goal. This story about collaboration is inspirational.

What if this worldwide collaborative effort and cooperation is extended to reducing conflict, encouraging prosperity and bringing peace to our most dangerous places? I look toward to next generations to cast aside the baggage of intolerance and pettiness of previous generations to take full advantage of this collaborative spirit.

Max Lehmann

Mary Rittle lives in Johns Creek and recently retired from a career in marketing and public relations. She has three grown sons and keeps busy with her three grandchildren, pickleball, swimming, a community garden, singing in a choir and volunteering.  In 2019, she published a children's book, "Sparkler the 10th Reindeer."
Mary Rittle lives in Johns Creek and recently retired from a career in marketing and public relations. She has three grown sons and keeps busy with her three grandchildren, pickleball, swimming, a community garden, singing in a choir and volunteering. In 2019, she published a children's book, "Sparkler the 10th Reindeer."

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Of course, I am excited about the real possibility of life returning to normal in 2021 and all that it brings — family reunions, travel, socializing and businesses reopening. But I hope there are larger lessons learned through this life-changing pandemic that will carry into our future lives.

We have to look out for one another. Everyone on earth has been affected by COVID-19 in some way. No one has escaped its tentacles. I believe we have become a little bit kinder and a little more generous because we are all in this together. And I hope and pray this continues.

Nothing will ever replace the value of face-to-face meetings. But we now know that there could be a healthy compromise between going to the office and working from home. Allowing employees to work remotely part of the week offers huge rewards in several ways. And it gives individuals and families back the time they spent commuting, improving the quality of their lives.

Let’s hope the lessons learned today inspire us to do better in the new year.

Mary Rittle

Maria Balais, a community contributor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contributed by Maria Balais
Maria Balais, a community contributor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contributed by Maria Balais

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

The year 2020 is a challenge like nothing I have experienced in my entire life – and that includes murder hornets and Sahara Desert dust plumes (oh, yeah, that happened, too). But the year 2020 has forced me to be still. Do you know how hard it is for me to be still? Being still is amazing. Being still is a gift. I am watching every hair on my son’s head grow. Every time he grows a centimeter, I see it. I watched two trees in my back patio go from bare branches, to buds, to lush green leaves. The spring of 2020 was one of the most beautiful springs I have ever seen, and the cool 70-degree weather seemed to last forever. When I go for my long walks in the neighborhood, I take my time because I don’t have to be anywhere except for wherever I am at that moment. The year 2020 is hard because all good things are not easy. I believe that whatever is on the other side of all this is worth the hardship. It is with this optimism that I approach 2021.

Maria Balais

Cathy Lussiana, AJC community contributor. Contributed photo
Cathy Lussiana, AJC community contributor. Contributed photo

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

As we celebrate the new year, my optimism begins with an appreciation of what we’ve learned and gained through 2020. Let’s start with continuing to experience the outdoor world more— increased walking and biking became a priority, and definitely supported my sanity. These outings can continue, and the increased family time doesn’t need to stop!

In the working world, the flexibility demonstrated by many companies for their employees can be supported and continued, and we can be optimistic for improved work/life balance going forward. For retirees, additional time led to more volunteer opportunities. (It was fun supporting our church youth through the outdoor pumpkin sale.)

Optimism continues for improved health in the new year — how often do we hear the messaging to stay home when not feeling well, so let’s keep doing that! If all of us continue with more frequent hand washing, it will be a safer and cleaner world.

We have learned to stay in touch with those we love in more virtual ways — let’s not lose that.

I’m optimistic that the severity of this virus will move behind us as we venture through 2021, and in the process, we’ve learned ways to improve our quality of life as part of this forward journey.

Cathy Lussiana

AJC Community Contributor Elisabeth Knights
AJC Community Contributor Elisabeth Knights

This year has been unwelcoming, disheartening, worrisome and discomforting. But I remain thankful – and hopeful.

I am thankful for the lessons we learned, for the resilience and togetherness we have shown, and for all the progresses we were able to make.

My philosophy is to always look for the silver lining. As a business owner, through these tough times, the silver lining allowed us the opportunity to restructure some elements of our business, which led to significant growth. In turn we were able help more people with steady and gainful employment.

I am hopeful for many things.

I look forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy. I am inspired by the advancements we have made in medicine and technology within such a short space of time. I remain hopeful that the togetherness we have shown is infectious enough that it will withstand the test of time.

In the new year, we should all work together to make the bridges that divide us shorter so that the next generation has less chipping away to do.

My advice to everyone is to always seek the positive in any situation. The glass is always half-full.

Elisabeth Knights

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