From The Ashes of 2020, We Emerge (Stronger)

It’s 2021. We made it. Like most people, I could not wait to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. In addition to wanting to say goodbye to the most tumultuous year of my lifetime, there is something about a new year that brings hope, which I was more than ready to embrace when the calendar turned this January. For me, a new year also brings new resolve (even if it sometimes that resolve doesn’t last, as can be the case with some of my well-intentioned new year’s resolutions). And this year, the need for hope and commitment to a better tomorrow felt even more necessary, if not required. It’s been a LONG year. 

Beyond a new beginning feeling necessary, the need for a new beginning has also felt somewhat urgent. In addition to pandemic woes, routines and loved ones lost, widespread economic suffering, January 6 brought the palpable division we’ve been witnessing in our country to a poignant head, in a day that will never be forgotten.

As the mother of four and the founder of a nonprofit that aims to cultivate empathy and community, it has been almost too much at times – too much to navigate, too much to stomach, too much to rise above. And yet, as is true of most difficult moments, the bleak and troubling sights have been countered by moments and people whose light have been undeniable. Their brightness has contrasted the darkness in a way that both reminds us of the extreme goodness at work in our world and generates a desire to pursue that light with even greater vigor than before. At PGK, it has been a reminder of why we exist and why we must continue to be rooted in the fundamentals of our work right now, more than ever.

From me, the fundamentals are simple:

  • People are hardwired for goodness. I genuinely believe that. We may need to be reminded at times of why it’s so important to stay connected to that goodness and how to make choices that reflect that (which is definitely not always easy), but the goodness is there.
  • Goodness begets goodness (and similarly, hate begets hate). Which side of that we choose to be on is indeed a choice.
  • Like all choices, we need to teach our children how to make good ones. They are our future, and they are building their (future) in a crazy time.
  • Our children learn what they live. If we teach them the values of community, inclusion, respect, service, and empathy through actions that inspire AND cultivate those values consistently, they will learn to live them. (And the world starts to look like a different place.)
  • It takes all of us. We live in community, defined in different ways by different people in different places and times, but we don’t live alone on our own private islands (at least not the vast majority of us). Our realities (and fate) are therefore intertwined (whether we like it or not).

Despite the difficult and troubling moments that have punctuated the past year, through my work at PGK, I have been inspired by so many eager to help address the suffering in some small way, even when that desire has been challenged by the need to be physically distanced. We had over 200 kids and families join us for our 2020 Summer Service Series, our first foray into the world of virtual service, facilitated by everyone’s most steadfast companion in 2020 – Zoom. We had over 1,000 participants join us in November for our week-long Create the Change® Week. That work continues this year with our new, virtual Give Back Hour series. In each instance, we have seen youth and families from all over the country come together to help people they will never see or know, but who they want to help, nevertheless. More and more continue to reach out to us, and we continue to work with our nonprofit partners to find new ways for people to get involved, in the hope of providing hope during this challenging time.

At some point, the pandemic will end. Things will start to feel more “normal.” We will get back to the business of whatever we did before COVID. (I’m not entirely sure I remember what that was at this point, to be honest.) But what I hope we don’t lose sight of are some of the realities we have had to face over the past year – the things laid bare – both good and bad that have awakened us to new understandings and spurred us to action. I hope we emerge from our covered faces and necessary social distancing with a greater desire for connection and with less acceptance of the things that disconnected us in the first place, some of which existed long before COVID.

Some people hate change (even the good and necessary kind), but I embrace it when it comes with the hope of better tomorrows, because hope is what drives us. Like goodness, I believe hope is a basic instinct palpable and present, especially in our children.  Let us not only stoke their sense of hope as we help them through this pandemic period, but join them in seeking, preserving, and promoting it. There is no time like the present to take on this task. We all need it, and we need each other. (Come on 2021 – I’ve got faith in you!)

We have committed our blog series for 2021 to reflections on how we can build community and the urgent need for community in this challenging time. If you would like to offer your opinion on this subject and how you feel PGK is or can help play a role in the work that needs to be done, please email Christine Caruso at