Never has a year made us examine our every move, interaction and all of our best-laid plans. Never has everything about our daily lives been so considered and scrutinized. When we walk out of our doors, we can’t let our guard down. Even something as simple as grocery shopping can feel fraught with danger. Moreover, many people fear for their loved ones, jobs and futures. It’s difficult and uncomfortable; it’s frustrating and isolating. It’s COVID-19.

Phil Potenziano is the Superintendent of Brunswick School Department. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilPotenziano & Instagram Brunswickmesup.

At times this past year, it has been difficult for me to be thankful, but as a parent, husband and educator, I know how important it is to our overall well-being.  Taking for granted the good things we experience in our daily lives is an actual psychological phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation,” and the groundhog-day feeling of this past year can exacerbate it. But if we open our minds, this pandemic also has the power to teach us and remind us of all we have to be grateful for … small things that our pre-pandemic selves took for granted.

For example, I’m thankful for curbside grocery pick-up and the occasional treat of take-out food. I’m thankful for friends with sewing skills to make masks. I’m grateful to the committed, overworked health care professionals and first-line workers and for the many kindnesses we have witnessed – neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. More than ever, I appreciate my own health. And I’m thankful for the few family members who share our “safe pod.”

I’m also thankful for the teachers who have found creative ways to keep our young people engaged. I am grateful for our incredibly adaptable students who can see past the current situation and look forward to what will (finally) come next. I’m so impressed by their ability to continue to learn in a very different and constantly changing environment. I’m especially happy to see their desire to be back in school and their true excitement about getting back to any vestige of their pre-pandemic school life.

I suppose when today’s students tell their own children one day about their experiences with the pandemic of 2020, it will sound a bit like the quintessential grandparent description of “walking to school in a snowstorm – uphill both ways.” But I hope they will also talk about the lessons they learned (many of which they probably haven’t even recognized yet), and be proud of the resilience, flexibility, patience and self-reliance they’ve developed along the way. Because in the end, appreciating the little things will nurture and sustain us all – through life’s ups and downs, especially during a worldwide pandemic.

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