Voting rights bills need further scrutiny

This blog was previously published in the Des Moines Register.

President Joe Biden is pushing voting rights legislation by denigrating anyone who opposes it. He asks, “Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president.

If we weren’t critical thinkers, the debate would be over.

But hold on. If half of Congress is against this thing, it must not be so simple.

And it’s not.

A reading of the actual text of two, recent voting rights bills reveals more than a few concerns.

Part 1 of the Freedom to Vote Act implements automatic voter registration through the state motor vehicle authority.

Just in the past five years, several states have already started some type of automatic voter registration. Oregon was the first.

But pump the brakes.

Not everyone who has a driver’s license is a citizen. This bill places a huge responsibility on the motor vehicle employee for determining if the person standing in front of them has the legal right to vote in our country. The info is then electronically sent to state election officials. These systems are often fully automated with no paper trail. Not a best practice.   

And the pressure for the motor vehicle employee to get it right—to only submit names who truly have the right to vote—falls away because the bill prohibits prosecution of any non-citizen who accidentally enrolls to vote and any motor vehicle employee who accidently enrolls them. The burden then falls with state election officials to catch errors.

They’re busy, too. It’s tougher to find a mistake than it is to simply start with clean voter rolls.

The automatic voter registration mandate is just one part of this lengthy bill. The full text of all bills should be studied, explained and debated. But they’re usually not. 

It would cost billions of taxpayer-funded dollars to implement the Freedom to Vote Act, without actually increasing confidence in our elections.

Then there’s the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. A section of this federal bill requires “preclearance” from the attorney general before states may make certain voting or election changes.

Sort of sounds like a federal takeover of elections.

If the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights could all be boiled down to one very important message, it would be to be very wary of a federal government that becomes too powerful and intrusive in the lives of its citizens. 

Our Founding Fathers clearly saw the wisdom of federalism and states’ rights.

We’ve seen it, too, these past few years by the very different ways that states have coped with a pandemic. Fortunately, here in Iowa, we weren’t forced to endure a “one size fits all” New York approach.

Biden stated at a recent press conference, “I have not been out in the community nearly enough…I don’t get a chance to look people in the eye…to go out and do the things that I’ve always been able to do pretty well: connect with people…”

Here’s an idea, Mr. President.

Schedule town hall meetings where the actual text of these bills is placed on overhead screens for all to see. Look people in the eye and explain why each part of this bill is good for the country. Invite an elected Republican legislator from the district to explain why there’s opposition. Answer questions from the audience.

Instead of accusing dissenters of being on the side of Jefferson Davis, transparently explain exactly what your side wants to do.

It took parents showing up at school board meetings to shine a light on questionable education practices. Citizens showing up at town hall meetings and combing through the actual text of proposed bills would force transparency from our lawmakers.

Biden said that we must defend our democracy.

We will.

Start lining up those town hall meetings.

Happy New Year, with emphasis on “New”

Every year our extended family gathers for a Christmas meal and a “grab bag” gift exchange. The location of the celebration rotates among family members, and the hosting sibling sets the guidelines for the gift exchange.

Most years, there’s a strong level of tradition and comfort on how this all plays out.

Until I host.

You see, I’m a change junkie. I like to constantly learn, do and experience new things.

And so naturally, there’s a twist in the game rules. Or as one relative put it, “So how are you going to piss off people this year?”

Yes, change is fun.

It explains why I feel driven to create New Year’s resolutions.

Last year, I chose to journey with Father Mike Schmitz and his “Bible in a Year,” podcast. It provided an opportunity to listen to the entire Bible as well as Father Schmitz’ daily commentary—which is so good. Because I’m a reader, I also printed the daily schedule so that I could first read the scripture passages.

It’s been an intense undertaking. Reading the daily passages took 15 minutes. I highlighted verses that spoke to me so that I could return to those chapters later for continued reflection. Listening to the podcast consumed about another 30 minutes. Imagine making room in your life, every day, for something new that takes 45 minutes.  

Life is busy.

By October, I was about seven weeks behind. Simple math dictated it would take one-and-a-half hours to complete a daily reading and podcast, as well as gain on one. Three hours would be required to gain on three.

Every free moment at home was spent reading the Bible. Every minute in the car was spent listening to the podcast. Fortunately, there were some two and three hour trips in there to visit grandchildren. Big gains were made on road trips. After some serious Bible-bingeing, I got caught up in late December. It’s now December 31st, and I’ve completed the “Bible in a Year,” under the guidance of Father Schmitz.  

Discipline plus goals equals accomplishment. Being stubborn helps, too.

And although the “Bible in a Year” consisted of daily reading and listening tasks, those tasks compounded to create greater revelations and spirituality.

The point is that growth cannot happen without some kind of new effort or activity. And life, without growth, seems like a lack of gratitude for each 365 days that God gifts us.  

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John found themselves in grave danger with Jewish authorities for proclaiming the new and good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. With the threat of imprisonment looming, it would have been easy for Peter and John to halt their activity. But they responded, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” And instead of praying for personal safety, they asked God to, “…take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness…”  

Make it impossible to live in 2022, exactly as you did in 2021. You needn’t have the boldness of an apostle—just a recognition that this is your time and your chance at some type of newness.

Cheers to living, and not just existing.

Happy New Year, with an emphasis on “New.”

A wish list for Trump’s social media platform

Former President Donald Trump is launching a new social media platform called, TRUTH Social. Plans are for it to become accessible in early 2022.

Trump was kicked off Twitter and Facebook, where tens of millions followed him. Twitter claimed that Trump incited violence, while Facebook cited public safety concerns. Trump maintains that big tech is silencing conservative voices.

That’s where competition comes in. Trump is starting a new social media platform, and he has the opportunity to make it better. 

Here’s a “Top Five” whimsical wish list for betterment.

*Make TRUTH Social a platform for all political voices. Truthsocial.com states that it will be America’s “Big Tent” that encourages, “…open, free and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.” I hope that’s the truth. Trump is my guy. I voted for him twice. But like anyone else, he’s not off-limits from criticism. Mr. Trump, keep your fingers off the delete key.  

*Welcome political activity but also encourage family and friends to continue to mostly post about their everyday lives, keeping us connected with each other. Personally, I enjoy political posts. But not exclusively. Not all the time. While in office, Trump signed an executive order reducing excessive business regulations by stating, “…for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination…” Small businesses rejoiced. In the same spirit, wouldn’t it be great if somehow only one political post appeared on your newsfeed for every two personal posts? Again, happiness.

*Make it impossible to receive notifications from the platform’s activity. Let’s make America focused again by using the platform in an intentional way—by choosing to open the app and spend time with it instead of being interrupted throughout the day with incessant notification beeps. Working hours would be more productive. Driving hours would be safer. Personal hours would be more relaxing. Win, win, win.  

*Consider calling it something other than TRUTH Social. Facebook and Twitter do not carry strictly truthful information, but they’re not called Truth. Mr. Trump, you will be regularly lambasted when something untruthful is posted on TRUTH Social. But that could be the master plan. In the “Art of the Deal,” Trump says of the press, “Sometimes they write positively, and sometimes they write negatively. But from a pure business view, the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks.” Maybe he’s one step ahead of everyone again and will use predictable outrage to gain publicity for his new social media platform.  

*And the number one wish for TRUTH Social is to prevent the harvesting and sale of user data. Ironically, people on social media want privacy. Money makes the world go round, and there needs to be a profitable component. But even a reduction in the amount of annoying ads on your newsfeed would be nice.    

Trump’s on to something with his desire to start a new social media platform. What we have now works great for multi-billion dollar corporations capable of influencing elections but doesn’t work the best for citizens.

Last year, Twitter and Facebook restricted an important New York Post story on then candidate, Joe Biden, during a presidential campaign. Both companies later removed Trump from its platforms. Big tech is deciding what we can read. The abusive power that is being wielded cannot be overstated.

Trump is still an entrepreneur. He recognizes a need and has the courage to take a risk and solve the problem.   

Even if none of my wishes come true, let’s hope TRUTH Social is an improvement over what’s offered now.       

Afghanistan withdrawal reveals dishonest leadership

September 11th is a day of mourning for our country. Nearly 3,000 innocents were slaughtered by freedom-hating terrorists. And over the last 20 years, we lost 7,000 of our nation’s finest—men and women of our military—in the global war on terror. Afghanistan accounted for 2,500 of those deaths.

It’s sobering.

But the homeland remained safe from a major terror attack for two decades. That one measurement of success is important to the 300 million living here. And it gave meaning and honor to the sacrifice of those who gave their all.

It’s different this year.

We fled Afghanistan in a defeated and dishonorable manner, and it threatens to reshape our understanding of the losses we’ve sustained.

Most are in agreement that 20 years is long enough to try to secure a positive outcome. But most would also agree that a 20-year investment, made by the most powerful country in the world, has value. Before the pullout, there were just 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan and no soldier deaths in the past 18 months.

You don’t need a royal flush to win in poker, just cards that are better than everyone else’s. The situation in Afghanistan wasn’t great, but we stupidly threw in our hand when our cards were likely the best at the table, at the present time.

People in positions of power failed us with an abrupt exit.

The Afghanistan debacle showed us that President Joe Biden doesn’t understand that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. He also doesn’t comprehend the idea of making an adjustment, when necessary. He lacks decision-making training because his only job, for nearly 50 years, has been to spend taxpayer money. None of this is helpful in developing and executing foreign policy.

Biden’s wrong way, no adjustment, bad decision-making came through in a July phone call to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban was on the move in other parts of the country. Biden reacted by telling Ghani, “I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”

Biden seems fine living in a world of perception instead of reality.  

Leadership in top command positions in the military failed us, as well.

The country reeled from the loss of 13 military personnel who died because a suicide-bomber made his way through the Taliban-controlled area. Every mom and dad of every son and daughter, posted at the Kabul airport, could anticipate and predict the danger of trusting the Taliban for security. 

Our country was further dishonored when a drone was used to vaporize a car that killed Afghan children instead of terrorists. Military leadership misled the American people for several days before the truth came out about the botched drone attack.

The military spun an illusion instead of providing facts.

But perhaps the worst abuse by people in power is the mainstream media. Former President Donald Trump was relentlessly hammered, but the media gives the Biden administration pass after pass.

Nobody knows how to distort the truth better than the press.

The September 11th terrorist attack on our country jolted us. And there was a powerful military response.

Now, the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan is jolting us again. This is another moment that requires a response.

But this time it must come from the everyday American by demanding truth, honor and accountability from elected leaders, military leadership, and the media.    

Because anything less diminishes the meaning of the lives lost on September 11th and those who protected us for the last 20 years.

That’s not acceptable.   

Loneliness

What do we owe people who are lonely?

The answer is to be there for them, but it’s not so simple.

It’s complex because we play both roles, sometimes the lonely and other times the one comforting the lonely.

Most will experience periodic loneliness in their lifetime. And loneliness isn’t always about being physically separated from others. It can happen when we feel that we are not understood by others. A 2019 survey (before the global pandemic) utilized by health insurance company, Cigna, found that 61% in this country had feelings of loneliness.  

So since we’ve been there, we have empathy for those who are experiencing it.

But we’ve also played the role of trying to alleviate loneliness in others. That can be tough. There’s just one of us. And there’s a lot of loneliness in the world.

There are three things that can help.

First, we can be there for others when we can and where we can. When we serve the lonely this way, we get back more than we give.

But like so many things in life, there needs to be a balance. Helping others is the right thing to do. Understanding that we must live the gift of our life to the fullest is the right thing to do, too. Both can happen. Know when to give to others and when to be kind to yourself.

Next, we can start thinking about our own responsibility in assuaging loneliness.

Many have retirement financial portfolios. A plan is developed, starting during the early working years, to one day retire with financial security. Perhaps we should also develop an anti-loneliness portfolio, a plan for warding off loneliness as we age.

There are several tools we can put in our anti-loneliness portfolio.

Being mobile is one of them. The longer we can stay healthy, the more we’ll be able to get out of the house in order to connect with others. For some, because of health problems that are no fault of their own, this isn’t an option. For everyone else, taking care of our body is the vehicle that will put distance between us and loneliness.

Geography is an important factor. If it’s possible, make a plan to live near your family or closest friends. Long distance relationships can work. It works better, though, when we’re in close proximity.   

And be a lifelong relationship builder. Despite our best efforts, old age may eventually make us home-bound and dependent upon visitors. There’s no age limit, though, to being a welcoming host or hostess to guests. One of the most meaningful tributes given to my father when he passed away was that when you walked through his doorway, he greeted you as though he had been waiting the whole day just to see you. Visits were treasured.

Stay healthy. Stay close. And stay humble. All great tools to put in an anti-loneliness portfolio.

Lastly, there’s the whole way we look at loneliness. It needn’t be something that we strive to completely eliminate from our lives because solitude can lead us to God. In “The Bible in a Year” podcast with the Rev. Mike Schmitz, he explains a story in the Book of Ecclesiastes. “Against a small city with few men in it advanced a mighty king, who surrounded it and threw up great siegeworks about it. But in the city lived a man who, though poor, was wise, and he delivered it through his wisdom. Yet no one remembered the poor man.” In his day, the poor, wise man was a hero who accomplished a tremendous victory. But now he’s forgotten.

Being forgotten is something that will eventually happen to all of us. It’s ironic that we put up such a big fight against loneliness until we realize this. But the One who will never forget us is God. Seek Him when you’re lonely.   

And so the answer to the question of what we owe people who are lonely is to do what we can for them.

Then, do all we can for ourselves.

More work must be done to remove stigma from mental health issues

The second shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine eased into my arm with no effects. I went back to work and had a regular day.

Then there was Day Two. I experienced fatigue, low-level body aches, and a general feeling of “blah.” Simple tasks seemed to take an enormous amount of effort and energy. Leaving work early, I went home and slept for 12 hours.

When I woke, I felt normal again and relieved that the one, bothersome day of vaccine side effects was over.

That was a while ago. But I still think about Day Two because it showed me—at least for a day—what many people with untreated depression, anxiety or a bipolar disorder may suffer on a lot of days.   

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about 20% of adults experience mental illness each year and that only about half receive treatment. Other sources report higher percentages.

No matter which numbers are used, they’re big. A major, contributing factor is that many are fearful of the stigma and being perceived negatively by society.

Which is strange. Because this country is a nation of second chances in so many ways. In sports, we root for the underdog. In politics, we call someone who bounces back as the “comeback kid.” In business, we admire the “Steve Jobs effect.” In finance, bankruptcy courts give individuals a path to build wealth again. In prison, inmates are offered rehabilitation programs. And many people find love again, after a loss.

But when an individual feels persistent fatigue, sadness, anger, loss of energy, an inability to focus, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, or a sense of hopelessness—all things that can be treated with medication and/or counseling—too many with mental health issues won’t give themselves the second chance they deserve because of stigma concerns.

Treatments work, and individuals can feel better.

People with mental health issues, though, aren’t idiots. By following the Britney Spears conservatorship story, they know that even a platinum-selling superstar can get derailed over a mental health episode. It’s actually quite rational for the average person struggling with depression, anxiety, or a bipolar disorder to believe that society, or the system, will not be kind to them either.

Public service messages promise people with mental health issues that there is no stigma in getting help. Meanwhile, the nightly news carries the continuing saga of a talented and successful pop star who cannot reclaim her life because of a past mental health issue.

Both things can’t be true. It’s not enough to say there’s no stigma in getting help for a mental health issue when we have continued Britney stories. We don’t have access to her medical records, but someone who has been fully self-supporting for several years should at least get a second look on whether a conservatorship must continue.  

The National Alliance on Mental Illness makes several suggestions for helping to reduce stigma.

Talk openly about mental health. More influential people, like Olympic athletes Simone Biles and Michael Phelps, are going public with their personal struggles. If individuals with depression, anxiety or a bipolar disorder can see that they’re not alone, they may be more willing to seek help themselves.

Educate ourselves and others about the topic. Be a mental health myth-buster, when possible.  

And be conscious of language. Words matter. It’s surprising how many news outlets used the word, “meltdown,” to describe the Britney event. 

In a way, I’m thankful for my Day Two vaccine symptoms. It gave me a greater understanding of what others are feeling, far too often.

If you’re going through a mental health issue right now, seek treatment and know that enough will admire your courage to choose to live a better life.    

A graduation gift of only words

My family has been blessed with graduations, and I look forward to them.

There’s anticipation of the big day and travel to a prestigious campus of higher education. A speech geek, like me, actually listens to the commencement address. There’s always something that can be learned, and learning is fun. Pomp and circumstance is everywhere. The whole event says that something special is happening.

But the best moment is when your child crosses the stage to receive that little piece of paper that means so much. Nothing compares to the fullness of heart—the swelling of pride—knowing that your child had the courage and determination to go after his or her dreams.

Which is really about having hope for the future. And when you have hope, you have everything.

Then the real celebration begins. My family, like many, has the tradition of enjoying food, drink and joyful conversation at a worthy dining establishment.

This year, though, COVID-19 made other plans and kept us apart. Our daughter wore her cap and gown in Cambridge, Massachusetts while we watched from a computer in Northeast Iowa.

But the day remains significant. Most receive just one graduate-level degree in their lifetime. Moments like these need exclamation points.

Even from afar.

I’m no poet, but tried an iambic pentameter English sonnet to commemorate the event.

It turns out that sonnet-writing isn’t that easy. Shakespeare really does deserve to be famous.

Still, our graduate deserves to be recognized. And so, Olivia, I know you would probably rather have that steak dinner with family, but you’ll have to settle for a long-distance sonnet this year.

Congratulations on your graduation.

And congratulations to all in the graduating class of 2021, no matter how you’re able to celebrate it.

A graduation gift of only words

A virus fear disturbed graduation,

And parents, bewildered, cannot attend.

A quick zoom peek of our red-headed one,

Is all we get; say congrats and hit “send.”

Most likely to become a CEO,

Said MIT peers, classmates giving cheer.

We’ve seen it too, that heart and soul, you know,

You’ll be who you’ll be, without any fear.

Ambition, and drive, and accomplishment,

You’ve got the whole world, open wide the gate.

For twenty-six years, loving where you went,

We want you to know you were always great.

Our pride will cross a thousand miles today.

Oh heaven and earth can’t keep it away.

Eliminate daily press briefings and make president more accessible

Kayleigh McEnany had a difficult job in the Trump administration. And now the same can be said for Jen Psaki in the Biden administration. It’s less about the person and more about the role.

White House press secretary briefings are unproductive time-wasters and should be eliminated.

The purpose of the daily briefing is to inform voters on important issues. The reality is that it gives reporters too much time to showboat, giving little consideration to what the American public desires to know. Reporters, friendly to the administration, lob cute, softball questions. Others, gunning for the president, ask gotcha questions. We all know that they’ve all taken sides. They’re either for the president or against him. The biased media is only there to prove what they think they already know, not to learn and uncover new information that will help our country.   

In the reporters’ defense, it’s tough to learn something new at the briefings. It’s not the Psaki administration, and she doesn’t have the freedom to go off script. She’d be fired if she did that. The press secretary serves at the pleasure of the president. He was elected. She was not. The press briefings will always be some type of regurgitation of a policy coming from President Joe Biden. There aren’t usually a lot of new insights.

Voters want to hear from the one they elected—Biden, not Psaki.  

The better way to provide the people with more useful information is to go straight to the president.

That, of course, requires access.

Former President Donald Trump had a tumultuous relationship with the press. The media hammered him, and he was perfectly capable of returning fire. But it never interfered with accessibility. Again and again, he showed up. Each day was a new day to ask questions and get answers. It seemed that every time Trump left the White House, he was engaging with reporters.

It’s a better model than press secretary briefings. So let’s do away with those and replace them with the expectation that every time the president leaves the White House, he must spend a minimum of 15 minutes answering reporters’ questions. 

Leaving for Camp David? Heading to Detroit to tour a Ford plant? Going golfing? Spending time with the Carters in Georgia? It’s all good. But not before you face a watchdog press that’s there to bring transparency to the American people about tax increases, the deficit, the illegal immigration crisis, rising crime rates, the increase in gas prices, foreign policy concerns, and more. That, Mr. President, is your job. Your answers or non-answers to questions you don’t know are coming, until they’re leveled at you, will tell us a lot.

And it shouldn’t be a difficult 15 minutes. It’s easy to tell the truth.

A bonus to this format is the scarcity of time provided. If the press knew they were getting limited time, maybe they’d ask more pertinent questions on issues vital to voters.

Of course, there is a flaw to a system like this. In order for it to work effectively, the president must actually leave the White House on a regular basis. Trump was always on the move, so it wasn’t a problem. Biden, on the other hand, proved during the campaign that he’s pretty good at holing up at home for long periods of time.

His home now is the White House, an even better place to hole up.

If you didn’t want to face the press. Or the American people.

Miracle at Chester, Iowa

The Holy Spirit nudged.

“You should call,” was its silent suggestion.

After a year of pandemic living, some of us were ready to go shopping in an actual mall instead of just contenting ourselves with online ordering. A trip was planned to Rochester, Minnesota—a solid 75-minute drive from our homes but also one of the larger retail centers nearest to us.

Everyone knows that the best part of a day like that is the windshield time. For some reason, being in a moving vehicle makes sharing our stories all the more fluid and effortless—like the landscape that breezes past us. Sometimes familiar, and sometimes we catch a glimmer of something new.

We were looking forward to that date circled on the calendar. And then we wanted more.

The shopping trip morphed into the idea of stopping at an establishment on the way back and meeting up with some favorite cousins from the area—cousins we hadn’t seen for a while. With more people involved, it was becoming a celebration. Other family members, not interested in shopping, were hungry for some social time and decided to meet us as well.    

It was all set. On a Monday. Late afternoon, early evening. At Laddy’s Bar and Grill in Chester, Iowa. The phone calls were made, and everyone was notified. All that was left was the waiting.

And that’s when the voice that abides within us and guides us toward goodness, the one I call the Spirit, stepped in.

“Several need this time of fellowship. What if Laddy’s isn’t open on a Monday?”

I didn’t listen, at first. I knew they were open on Mondays in the past.

Still.

“You should call.”

That was the first miracle. That the phone call was placed.

And found out that—no, they’re not open on Mondays anymore. Crushing news when there were only a few days left to make something else work.

Then the second miracle happened. The bartender asked, “Why? Do you have something special planned for the night? I could ask the owner if he’d open for you.”

Who does that?

If closed on Mondays, most businesses will simply say that they’re closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

She surprised me.

“Well,” I stammered, “not really. Not something special. Just about a dozen of us were thinking of meeting there for drinks and food.”

She took my phone number and said the owner would call me when the grill quieted down.

Not feeling too good about my chances with Laddy’s, I tried several area establishments. All closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

That’s when Laddy’s called, and the third miracle took place. “Sure, I can come in and open for you that night.”

Unbelievable.

It’s been a year of loss. The loss of life and livelihoods from a pandemic, the loss of freedoms because of isolation and restrictions, the loss of a sense of security due to spiking violence in our cities, and the loss of finding common ground with others because of deep political divides.

And then we experience a moment—even a little one—when our faith in humanity is restored.

It’s been a trying year for all of us, but we found goodness in Chester, Iowa that night. Never underestimate the healing power of simple, human connection.    

Laddy’s Bar and Grill is a bit too far away for me to become a regular. But it will be my new, favorite stop on the way home from Rochester.

No further nudging needed.

Five positive takeaways after a pandemic

Hello, March.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 intruded on every citizen’s life. Some lost their job, their business, their celebrations, or their personal connections with family and friends.

Some lost their life.

We’ll never be the same, but in some ways we can be better.

Searching for something positive to come out of this—anything positive, whether big or small—brought these top five:

#5 There’s better seating at restaurants. Remember pre-pandemic days when some restaurants would seat you right next to a cluster of other occupied tables, even though a good portion of the establishment was empty? It was more efficient for the wait staff but provided little quiet and privacy for the customer. After the initial lockdown, restaurants were prohibited from seating others too closely. It took a pandemic to give customers what they want. Restaurants, please remember this moment. Your patrons will.

#4 If you’re sick, stay home. Previously, our work ethic dictated that we continue to show up and get our jobs done, even if we weren’t feeling the best. Same for social commitments. We didn’t want to let friends and family down by missing an event. COVID-19 changed all that. And it’s for the better. The world will keep turning when we stay home and keep our germs to ourselves.

#3 Parents are in charge when it comes to educating their children. There are pros and cons to school choice issues, and they’ve been debated for decades. COVID-19 escalated the argument. Teachers, administrators, school boards and unions were, maybe, a little shocked that parents would fire school districts for not offering in-classroom instruction. Across the country, many private schools found a way to stay open. It became an attractive option for some working families—families that had never before considered a private school. The global pandemic did more to advance school choice issues than any other means.    

#2 We’re a stronger nation when we recognize that experts may not know everything. There were plenty of missteps throughout this pandemic. The issue of mask-wearing is one. Some of the things that experts advised were to not wear a mask because it wouldn’t help, to definitely wear a mask to protect yourself and others, to wear two or three masks because one mask isn’t enough, and to wear a mask under certain conditions, even if you’ve been vaccinated.

The worst part was being treated like children. Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that the general public was told that masks weren’t needed, when the pandemic first broke a year ago, in order to prevent a mask shortage for health care workers. At the time, our front-line workers did have the greatest need for masks. But the citizens of this country, at all times, deserve the truth.   

It’s astonishing to witness an entire country behave in a child-like way and obediently accept every change in masking and other pandemic mandates, without doing any critical thinking. Don’t ignore mandates, but do ask questions. And evaluate. It will be better for everyone—and better for our country—if we have good thinkers instead of great followers.                                                                                     

#1 Our “inner circle” has revealed itself as something to be deeply appreciated. It may be nice to have 500 friends on Facebook or 50 more personal relationships in our outer circle. But the ones who have sustained us during the pandemic are the 5 (ish) in our inner circle—people we see or talk to frequently and rely on to get us through daily life. We’re now more aware of who and what’s important in life.   

Nobody wanted the arrival of COVID-19. Nobody will want the next virus, either. But we learned a few things this past year.

And life will get better.