Two years ago, we began to realize that we were on the eve of a major pandemic and that major loss and sacrifice were on the near horizon. Having lived on the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic, I had a real understanding of the challenges and pain that lie ahead. I remember that day in March that I gathered all my employees together and gave an emotional directive and plea to them to take this seriously, to protect themselves and their loved ones and that it will be a time like no other, yet we will be in this together as the pandemic unfolds. Thank God, the worst has not materialized, although still becoming the worst pandemic of our lifetime.
I believe and have witnessed the fact that some of the most beautiful contributions and significant advances of humanity have happened because of the most horrific and painful tragedies. Through all the turmoil, division, sacrifices and losses of the COVID pandemic come many positives that can lead us to a new era of understanding, prosperity and yes, unity and community, as we all hope and pray.
Now, as we approach what many of us believe is the best time of the year, a time of holidays, faith, gatherings, reflection, and planning for the year ahead, I believe we all could take solace in some of those good things that have come out of the two years of a pandemic.
Locally, we have seen the surge of outdoor dining in a climate that should have always seen many outdoor areas to enjoy our meals, fresh air and sunshine. Many of these establishments will be here to stay and planning efforts will be sure to accommodate more in the future.
As for the use of technology, this pandemic has accelerated the use of virtual meeting technology by many years. Forcing many of us to work from home or other places safe and convenient thus taking us out of long commutes and reducing traffic congestion. We all got a chance to see again, just how beautiful of place we live when we are not stuck in major traffic. While we continue to reopen, I feel confident that hybrids of this technology and in-person meetings will become the norm.
Many municipalities as well as private companies had to immediately find ways to process work online, using technology in a way only dreamed of. While it hasn’t been all that smooth, it allowed most work to continue and forgone the collapse of the entire world economy and yes, it advanced this effort by years and can perhaps offer a better, more efficient way to continue doing business in a more convenient and cost-effective way.
Many of us took this disruption as an opportunity to reevaluate our lives, our priorities, what work we do, where we live and what we value. This scrambling of accepted patterns and norms throughout our community are yet to settle down and point us in a new direction. Yet, one thing is sure, the status quo no longer rules the roost, change is more palatable today than at any other time in our lives; more acceptable and perhaps possible as we continue to try to solve lifelong challenges while we protect what we love and understand that bold new policies and directions are possible and can lead to better goals and solutions.
Most importantly, an impact this pandemic has had on the trajectory of humanity is that we have learned how much humans need to be with each other. How seeing, sharing, loving each other is not something that can be completely satisfied with technology while we shelter at home and distance. Yes, many of us now value even more the comfort of our own homes and continue to make improvements, yet public spaces, shared experiences, and recommitment to each other and our neighborhoods has now emerged as part of this new era.
After World War I and the last major pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, there is now no wonder why the “Roaring Twenties” occurred next. A time of change, of innovation, of excitement and opportunity and an era of looking at all things in a new way happened then as I believe is happening now. It is our opportunity to lick our wounds, grieve the losses, learn from the many new lessons thrust upon us and rise together, in renewed trust, in new enlightenment of our unique contributions and differences and make sure that this tragedy, more than any other, is the cause of great advancement.
It is up to all of us, in each community to locally make sure this is so; with grace and humility, with respect for each other, we will seize this opportunity to forge new paths, seek new solutions, solve age-old challenges, and believe in a better more sustainable, equitable and fair society. It is up to all of us to to believe in ourselves, each other, and our community to unify behind this opportunity of a lifetime to forge a better future.
Doug Halter is a member of the Ventura City Council.