There are thousands of reasons why COVID-19 was so horrible. The many people who lost their lives or had their health compromised is, of course, at the top of the list. But other, while less tragic, outcomes affected us all: months of a terrible lock-down, restrictions that prevented us from our accustomed lifestyles, and the disconnect from friends, family, and the community. However, as bad as COVID-19 was, and is for many still, there are some positive take-aways.

Throughout the pandemic, we all realized how important relationships between friends and family were.  Before the pandemic, we didn’t necessarily prioritize our relationships; we took them for granted. In some cases, the lock-down resulted in some tension as household bubbles were stuck with the same people, and we got on each other’s nerves. But on the whole, families have come out stronger and closer. Puzzles, games, walks in nature, cooking adventures, Netflix marathons, exercise challenges all contributed to people appreciating each other more. The disconnect between friends also encouraged people to find different ways to contact each other. Many people used platforms such as Zoom, Face-Time, and Whats App to maintain connections. Some friendships didn’t make it through the pandemic, however, resulting in people discovering who their true friends really were. A great life lesson from this experience is to prioritize the important relationships in your life.

Friends on lunch break!

Another positive take-away from the pandemic is we realized that teachers and schools and the role they play in keeping connections together are vastly underrated. Though everyone was a little hesitant in September about sending their children to school along with 1500 kids in the same building, it was super important for the student’s mental health. Sure, it was nice to roll out of bed five minutes before class and be half-awake during online classes; however, we were missing out on a room filled with people to talk to, get extra guidance if needed, and to simply not feel isolated from the world. Grade 11 Riverside student Sanela Colakovic commented on the role school plays in our lives. “I never knew how much I missed the social interactions with friends and teachers at school, the important connections, until I went back,” said Colakovic.

One heart-warming take-away was the growth of empathy for others within a community, specifically the extra support for small businesses and restaurants was amazing to see. Before the pandemic, the community was always kind but as we went through it, we realized the important role local businesses play in connecting people and providing a stronger sense of community.  It was amazing to see our communities come together be supportive through the tough and stressful times. Port Moody small business owner Rose Gimenez said that “the extra support in the community through the pandemic was amazing and with the communities help our business was lucky to have survived.”

Overall, it was amazing to see the community come together for each other during this past year. Even something so small as a daily check-in with friends and family helped many people get through a year like none other. While the pandemic took a terrible toll, it’s important to have gratitude for what we do have rather than weighing yourself down with the obvious negatives! So, as we go into the future with hope, let’s make sure our ‘new normal’ means keeping that newfound sense of gratitude and empathy alive.