Thinking back over the past year, it is hard to believe that so much has happened to America.
It isn’t enough to worry about a pandemic that has engulfed us, but we must also be concerned about the great divide that seems to be widening in our country. That makes me sad.
I know that our country is, and has always been, a work in progress. But my hope has always been that we were always working to make things better.
I know this because I have lived through segregation and lynchings and Jim Crow. I attended all-Black schools and rode in the rear of the bus. I know what it is like to have your mom slap your hands for even reaching for the water fountain with the sign over it that said, “Whites Only.”
I know the curious feeling of a child who thought the white water surely must taste like lemonade. And I know the frustrated and painful look in my mother’s eyes when she couldn’t explain to me why I couldn’t drink from that fountain.
And, yet, I lived to get beyond those days to become a journalist at the Miami Herald, the first Black woman to do so at the paper.
But the journey wasn’t over. As a mother of sons, I learned that I had to give them “the talk” at a young age. And I don’t mean the birds and bees talk.
I had to prepare them for a world that didn’t take too kindly to Blacks, especially Black men. I had to tell them to grow a tough skin because they would need it whenever they were targeted by white police simply because they are Black.
And I had to tell them that it wasn’t beneath them to say “Yes, sir,” when a policeman called them hurtful names, nor to let it bother them when they were called the “N” word.
I had to tell them, “You know who you are…”
Yes, Americans have come a long way. Our fathers and uncles and brothers and sisters have fought together in wars for this land of ours. Some of us are always trying to make life better for everyone. Sometimes, however, we fall short of the goal. But we keep on getting back up, dusting off ourselves and trying again.
We do so because we know America is worth trying for.
So, here I sit, letting my mind wander back to the days before COVID-19 took hold of our world. I think of the long road I have traveled to get to this point in life.
I think back to this time last year when most of us were making plans — to travel, to have elaborate weddings, to graduate from high school and college, to lose weight and buy a new wardrobe. This time last year, we were also planning for Easter and the wonderful sunrise services we would attend — some at the beach, others on the lawns of local churches.
Life would go on as usual — or so we thought.
Then, like a gigantic bomb, COVID-19 was dropped on us, shattering our lives. Churches and schools were closed until further notice. None of us ever dreamed that our lives would be turned upside down in so short a time.
We never dreamed that the entire world would become victim to a vicious and dreaded virus, with the number of COVID deaths worldwide on Friday hitting 2 million deaths, with nearly 400,000 of those deaths coming from the United States, according to the New York Times database.
COVID forced us to change our plans. We learned how to celebrate milestones virtually. We learned how to have Zoom meetings and drive-by birthday parties and religious services.
Now, if only we would use this season of the coronavirus to help us think of how far we have come as a country, and to help us get back to the business of making strides towards justice for all.
When I first heard of the coronavirus, like many of you, I thought we would have to take a few special precautions, maybe getting a shot and keep on being about our business. But never did I think it would be like this today, with thousands of lives lost, hospitals overflowing and doctors and nurses and other hospital personnel working to the point of losing their own health as they try to heal the sick.
I am a firm believer that nothing happens by accident. I believe there is a reason that we are fighting COVID-19.
While I am not a prophetess, I believe, that just maybe, God is trying to tell us something. During the long months of battling the virus, being shut in has brought out the worst in some of us, while compassion and goodness has overflowed from others.
Over the past year, we have seen how mean and thoughtless some people can be. And we have seen acts of compassion and love that have left us in tears of gratitude.
I would like to think that those who let the best come out have done so because COVID-19 has afforded them the time to take a long look in the mirror of their soul. Those who have let COVID-19 bring out the worst in them have walked away from their mirror.
It isn’t easy fighting this pandemic. We are weary. But we must not give up. While COVID-19 sadly takes its toll on us physically, we must not let it take our soul.