A year later . . .

If you needed any proof of how an anonymous individual’s actions can negatively affect the world, 2020 gave it to you.

One person somewhere unwittingly unleashed a deadly coronavirus in the final quarter of 2019, and you know the rest.

Sure, other people have had terrible negative effects on the world, too. Think of the political leaders who have sent millions to their deaths over the centuries. But people like Hitler knew what they were doing. They wanted to kill.

COVID-19 was an accident — one person’s accident that affected most everyone on the planet and may very well have changed the course of mankind, in some ways, at least.

We’ll be learning lessons from this long after we’ve all been vaccinated and COVID-19 has been vanquished.

Hopefully, one of those lessons will include an increased sense of social responsibility. But that is probably wishful thinking.

I was feeling somewhat shell shocked on Thursday night, my last work shift before my Christmas break. Two weeks out of the news trenches. I can’t tell you how many pandemic stories I copy edited this year. Day after day. In Quebec, as in so many other places, the number of people infected by the coronavirus is growing, even though there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel in the form of COVID-19 vaccines.

I’m guessing everyone is feeling shell shocked to some degree, some more so than others. But none more so than doctors and nurses on the front lines.

It is a collective trauma.

So, where will we be at this time next year? Will it be behind us? Or will we still be masking our faces and practising social distancing?

Will the new strains of the coronavirus be resistant to current vaccines in the pipelines? Will those vaccines have to be altered?

And what might be the long-term effects of the coronavirus on those who do recover from infections?

There is so much uncertainty, collectively and individually.

Still, this is supposed to be a time of hope, if not the season to be jolly this year. We need to be brave, keep a stiff upper lip, as some might say in times like these.

It’s a time to remember the profound effect another individual had on the world, whether he was real or a myth. No matter, really. It’s the message that counts.

We all know what the message is, even if we lose sight of it sometimes. But at a time like this, it is as important as ever.

Because, really, the effects of our actions and thoughts can ripple far beyond our wildest expectations.

A mean thought can cause so much hurt and set in motion tragic chains of events we might never imagine. On the other hand, unselfish thoughts grounded in brotherly/sisterly love can do the opposite. They can save lives . . .

So, never in our lifetimes has the Christmas message been more important. We don’t really need the gifts, feasts and other celebrations to go with it.

It’s the message that counts.

Peace and love.

— Jillian