Family has meant so many things in this particular year we have just gone through and it will mean so much as we face what is ahead.
As I wrote my Family Day message this time last year, the word coronavirus was only just starting to make headlines in Canada. None of us had an inkling about the heartache, trials, upheaval and hardship that lay ahead for our communities, our country and our world.
The challenges continue to change our experience of family.
On one hand, remote work, online learning and pandemic lockdowns mean family living under the same roof are hunkered down, spending extended periods of time together in a way they never have before. For many, that has been a gift, a silver lining of this catastrophe.
I already know I will look back on this period of togetherness with great fondness, certainly as my two daughters grow up and leave home.
But the flip side of family under COVID-19, is that the fight against the spread of the virus means that extended families have been forced to stay apart. Grandparents are visiting their kids and grandkids through video calls, if even at all. In-person family gatherings for birthdays or other milestones are only fond memories of simpler, carefree times.
We know that some people have not seen loved ones – parents and grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews – for several months and for some, it’s been a year. And for many, friends are our family. We are aching for the friends and family we don’t live with and that’s a painful reality of the battle we are in the midst of waging.
But for many of us, the effects of the pandemic are much more dire. Many among us are experiencing difficult mental health effects of isolation and loneliness. For others, their homes are not havens, but places of abuse and neglect. United Way-funded agencies are delivering critical frontline services to those most vulnerable to this unforgiving pandemic.
All of us have a responsibility to follow the health and safety guidelines that are in place so that we can get the virus under control and return to some normalcy.
This year there is no better way to demonstrate the true meaning of Family Day than to stay home and stay apart.
In the absence of outings or visits with friends and extended family, we can celebrate this day with the small things: breakfast in bed or breakfast for dinner, a PJ day, video calls with loved ones, a movie marathon, a games day, or a hike in the woods.
On behalf of everyone here at the United Way Halton & Hamilton, happy Family Day. Regardless of how we each define family, may our memories of gatherings sustain us through this difficult time as we look forward to being together again one day soon.
President and CEO
United Way of Halton & Hamilton.