Dear Readers:

I want to take a moment to talk to you directly about the things that have been going on in our world for the past year. Many of us have been quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only now being able to move about freely. The year been fraught with challenges. Because the world shut down, many of our jobs evaporated. Countless businesses — especially the small businesses that are the backbone of our country — did not survive. Many more continue to limp along in hopes that soon they will experience a full comeback.

The murder of George Floyd by a police officer compelled thousands of people across our country and throughout the world to take to the streets to protest violence against Black people. In response to this growing awareness of the need to look at each other differently and figure out ways to be more respectful and conscious about how we engage others, a nationwide introspection began in families, businesses and communities. Rather than the focus on this tragedy lasting for one news cycle, it has lasted for an entire year, and many have taken action. Corporations have donated millions of dollars to protecting and uplifting Black, brown, Asian, LGBTQ and other underrepresented people as they have also looked to strengthen their business practices from the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion.

And then there was one of the most contentious elections in American history that nearly tore our citizenry down the middle, gutting much of the trust that had already been eroding over recent years. That historic election followed by the insurrection on Jan. 6 and the murders of innocent Asian women two months later, only to be exacerbated by a spate of mass murders week by week for nearly two months and counting, has sent our country reeling.

We are in crisis today on so many levels. Surely we are experiencing moral, political, economic, philosophical and racial emergencies. This is a historic time. Because we have been paused, we have started to collectively think a little harder about where we are and what it all means.

This year we began to ask ourselves, “Who are we?,” “What do we value?” and “Do we care about our fellow man and woman?” Further contemplation of how we can be fully engaged members of humanity rather than individuals standing in our separate corners rallying for our own rights to the exclusion of others has caused fiery dialogue and calls for action.

And then there was the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, in which Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd. Many were shocked; it is rare for police officers to be held accountable for these behaviors. As President Biden, Vice President Harris and so many others have said, we have to do more. Our country desperately needs reform on so many levels. We need to choose to create systems and checks and balances that will support every member of our national family — that will make it more likely that we will SEE each other, HEAR each other and choose to RESPECT each other, especially in those tender, challenging moments.

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