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Hope for 2021: St. Louisans Have Their Wish Lists Ready 

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Jeff Landow. - COURTESY JEFF LANDOW
  • COURTESY JEFF LANDOW
  • Jeff Landow.

Jeff Landow

Social studies and English teacher at Lafayette High School

Cynthia Ozick, American author, writes, "When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude."

I quite like this quote. In fact, I would like to offer up one such example of how 2020 grabbed our country by the collar and reminded us, rather dramatically, of something we have too long taken for granted: the humble public school education.

I teach English to tenth and twelfth graders, which — let me tell you — is quite a challenge during a national pandemic. There weren't enough internet hotspots to go around in March and April, so some students simply didn't have access to their online instruction for several weeks. Even when students could access classes over Zoom, it was hard for them to focus, to build and maintain relationships with teachers and friends, and to keep their different classes' assignments and due dates organized.

Students complained of eyestrain and headaches from staring at a computer screen all day. Some students became depressed; some simply stopped logging in. The first day we returned to school for in-person instruction, I saw students so overcome with relief they were near tears. Public education in America isn't perfect — Lord knows I have my list of critiques and criticisms — but I hope that in 2021, we as a nation look back and reflect on what happened when something so easily taken for granted was so suddenly taken away from us. I hope we remember that public schools and public education deserve our gratitude.

click to enlarge Jonathan Denen. - COURTESY JONATHAN DENEN.
  • COURTESY JONATHAN DENEN.
  • Jonathan Denen.

Jonathan Denen

Senior at Lafayette High School

2020 has made hope a ubiquitous word. Hope got us through the pandemic. Sometimes hope is all we have.

In 2021, I hope that restaurants will be open full time, so I can enjoy a meal with my partner. I hope that I will no longer have to don a mask every time I walk into school or work. I hope that when I go off to college, all classes will be in person, and I can attend parties, and football games, and study sessions with friends, and walk through the hallways with the people closest to me, free of strict rules that restrict the acceptable vicinity of people in public spaces.

I hope. I hope. I hope. Right now, we're all six feet apart.

I have six hopes for 2020, and each hope is one step closer to those we love. One footstep at a time back to normalcy:

I hope that people are kinder to each other. We've never needed it more than in 2020.

I hope that people will open up talks about mental health, because even those with the greatest mental fortitude have been affected in some way by the events of the past year.

I hope that people will take the vaccine. Only then will we return to normal.

I hope that we have learned about the responsibility needed to handle epidemics. When everybody does their part, the transmission rate stays low.

I hope that those who are oppressed will continue to use their voice.

I hope that 2021 will be everything that 2020 was not. 2020 made me question my goals and who I am. 2021 is hope. Hope guides us towards the future. Towards our dreams and goals. Towards normalcy.

Shelby Darnell. - COURTESY SHELBY DARNELL
  • COURTESY SHELBY DARNELL
  • Shelby Darnell.

Shelby Darnell

Senior at Lafayette High School

Severely, and unequivocally, I want to eat ice cream in peace again. Allow me to explain: Ice cream is a peaceful dessert, a cold treat on a warm day. However, now that indoor dining is closed, I'm sitting outside eating ice cream in the December cold.

You may say: Shelby, why don't you just not eat ice cream when it's cold? To that, I say that only cowards discontinue their ice cream consumption in the name of temperature regulation.

(Frankly, I think I'm lactose intolerant, but that hasn't stopped me either.)

My best option during 2020 is to eat ice cream in my car, which, yes, I have done before, and, no, it does not go well. Alternatively, I could try to get the ice cream home before it melts; however, my neighborhood goes for miles because we're talking about Missouri here. My poor waffle cone dissolves by the time I get home, and all I'm left with is a spoonful of disappointment, which is pretty much a metaphor for all of 2020.

So, in the name of all that is holy, whoever has control over 2021: Please let me eat ice cream like a normal person again.

Sheri Beezley. - COURTESY SHERI BEEZLEY
  • COURTESY SHERI BEEZLEY
  • Sheri Beezley.

Sheri Beezley

Nurse

For 2020, I got to be a nurse in a pandemic — woohoo! It has sucked. It still sucks. The most difficult part has been witnessing the blatant disregard of facts, science and evidence by our countrymen. The opportunity that God gave us in 2020 to use intellect, mutual concern and kindness to squash a science-based issue was thrown away by so many.

My hope for 2021 is that the United States will focus on education. It is obvious to most health-care workers that some basic STEM classes for our population may have helped us attack this virus before it even got to our shores. We saw it coming, literally, from miles away.

I received my bachelor of science in nursing when I turned 40 years old; it has changed my perspective on so much. I hope and pray that higher education will be a priority and more accessible to all in 2021 so everyone has the opportunity for new points of view.

For myself, I hope 2021 gives some chance for rest, a vacation and freedom from the desire to slap so many people upside their heads — don't worry, I'm not getting close enough to actually do that.

I also hope in the beginning of 2021 we will all wear masks, protect each other, wash our freakin' hands, be nice to each other, get a vaccine, order stuff from our local businesses and tip like our money is on fire!

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