Nourishing the spirit during challenging times
We ask: What provided sustenance in 2020?
Compiled by Eileen Persike
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! How often is that sentiment written in Christmas greeting cards? How many of us, at the end of a challenging year, now understand the “healthy” part cannot be taken for granted?
Not interested in a news recap in 2019, we asked folks to reflect on their happiest memory from the year. Today as we count down the final days of a year none of us will soon forget, I was encouraged by psychotherapist Kathleen Mitchell to move beyond labels. Mitchell coordinates a Meditation and Mindfulness group at Ascension Koller Behavioral Health in Rhinelander.
“In mindfulness we encourage views beyond ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ which are judgments and carry you into history and projections, all beyond the direct experience of the moment,” she said.
The question posed to several folks in the community was, “What sustained you during this challenging year?”
No right or wrong answers, but a question that requires a certain amount of thought, or perhaps even soul searching. Have you found a way to be fully present and not anxious or overwhelmed by the unpredictable events of the past 10 months? What sustained YOU in 2020?
Thank you to everyone who shared their reflections with us. We begin with a response by our publisher, Patrick Wood, who said his answer comes down to one word.
“Recently I was asked what has sustained me during this year of turmoil, upheaval, and – for many – tragedy. My answer boils down to one word: Faith.
Throughout this long political season of conflict and controversy, I have had faith in our country. I believe in the vision of our Founders to “form a more perfect union” by creating a government flexible enough to adapt to the conditions of war, recession, depression and now lately a pandemic and an extremely contentious political season. That’s something special.
I have faith in my fellow human beings. Men and women all over the globe have been tested during this difficult year. Yes, there are horror stories of people acting badly, but there are many more stories of nobility, of men and women who faced the challenge and rose to meet it with their very best – the health care workers who showed up day after day to care for those stricken by the pandemic, and for all others whose “ordinary” illnesses suddenly carried a heightened risk; the police officers, fire fighters and other emergency responders who continued to serve our communities day in and day out, again facing an increased risk every single day that the person they rescued or the criminal they arrested might be carrying a deadly virus; and the everyday heroism of retail and warehouse workers who kept all of us supplied.
Above all I have faith in God. I recognize the difficulty in reconciling an all-merciful Father with the daily suffering we see all around us; and yet I do believe that amidst the chaos there is a Divine Logic that one day we might understand and accept. There is an old saying, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” We’ve seen a lot of crooked lines this year; someday I am certain we will see the true meaning that came of these seeming scribbles.
Like just about everyone, I’ll be happy to say goodbye to 2020. But I have faith that 2021 will be better.”
Patrick J. Wood, Publisher
Kerry Bloedorn, Director, Pioneer Park Historical Complex:
Something that has sustained me through this challenging year was community. Many in the Rhinelander community stepped up to help each other through this harrowing time in history. The grace and flexibility shown by the community to look out for and keep each other healthy was inspiring.
I’m proud to be a Rhinelander community member.
Mike Michalak, the Morning Hodag, WHDG:
Being deemed “essential” is what kept me going. Along with my fellow broadcasters at the NRG Media Stations, the four of us were charged with keeping six radio stations on the air. We didn’t see other staffers for weeks or even months, but our job around the clock was to make sure information on assistance, cancellations, weather – all of that – got out in a timely manner both on the air and online. It continues today and we’re proud to live up to our task of being “Great Local Radio.” I was also there as support for my wife, who is a bus driver. Her efforts helping to keep kids safe was an inspiration.
Mayor Chris Frederickson, Rhinelander:
The necessity. The People. The science. The psalms.
Nancy Sattler, Executive Director, Northwoods United Way:
In my position, I see how generous and caring our community is to each other in ANY given year. This year was an exceptional time, and it highlighted the good people we have in our area. People helped in small ways by picking up groceries for someone, or in larger ways by donating to the NWUW Covid19 Response Fund.
Personally, I’ve been sustained by the friendships and family that I have been fortunate enough to see or talk to on a daily basis. I’ve grown closer with my immediate circle of friends and family. I am a ‘reader’ and found the opportunity to read many books this past year, as well as complete a few puzzles! I keep thinking about 2021 and how good it will be to get back to a new normal. All the things I wanted to do in 2020, but couldn’t because of the pandemic, will be even more special in 2021 when we finally get to do them!
Ryan Zietlow, CEO, YMCA of the Northwoods:
As a YMCA we are a people connected organization. Our good work is amplified when we are able to bring people together.
2020 challenged that, and required us to work differently. Sustained by our members that stuck with us, donors who saw the good work we do and our employee team that worked miracles. Throw in our Capital Campaign, a vision that will impact for generations. We know coming out of the pandemic this work will be even more critical. Supporting child care, giving youth/teens a safe and affordable place to belong, standing beside adults in their journey for physical and mental health: These will become the outcomes of our future. Since school has started we have supported our community with over 11,000 hours of virtual learning and served over 5,000 meals and snacks to our school age children.
What has sustained us in 2020? Simply, our community. Thank you!
Eric Burke, Superintendent, School District of Rhinelander:
Supportive community in our move to Rhinelander.
Pastor Rod Akrom, Calvary Baptist Church:
This past year has been filled with unprecedented challenges. While we do not have much certainty in our lives, there is a level of predictability. We take comfort in knowing that tomorrow will – in all likelihood – be similar to today. With 2020, that predictability disappeared.
What continually sustains me is a certainty that God is in control of every situation and that he has a plan for our lives. Two thousand years ago, hope was born anew through the birth of Jesus Christ. This hope sustains me, even when life is challenging and we face unpredictable times. It is the joy of knowing God personally that gets me up every morning and helps me make sense of the world we are living in. Best of all, it is a faith and hope that every person can share as we move into a new year! May God’s grace, his love and his truth sustain each of us in a time of uncertainty.
Ruth Hempel, Forth Floral:
We were sustained . . .
By the generous support of our local business by our community as well as people who formerly lived in town and continue to order from us.
By the support of our employees and their willingness to continue working despite their fear of the unknown.
By people using our products, flowers and plants, to express their love and concern for one another. We’ve seen an outpouring of affection, especially when families are separated during this time.
By the fact that we grow many of our plants and flowers locally, at a time when product procurement was an issue for many in our industry.
Kim Swisher, owner, Kim Swisher Communications, LLC:
Owning a small business in any year is demanding. It was especially challenging this year because of the pandemic, and because of the trials many of our clients faced in continuing their businesses.
As my team and I worked to help our clients maintain, I saw a resiliency and adaptability that I couldn’t have conceived of prior to this year. We closed our office and the majority of my team, including me, began working from home. Everyone gathered needed office equipment and made a place for their work within their home.
As we traveled the virtual road together, we met weekly and looked forward to “seeing” each other. We shared home images, saw each other’s loved ones and pets walk by or drop in, and managed changing schedules as needed.
We looked for ways to maintain our positivity and help our clients. We pivoted to holding client meetings online, and hosting their events on virtual platforms. We learned the programs and managed technology glitches – including poor internet service.
I have always been strong proponent for broadband in the Northwoods. I hope those with the ability to enhance our services see the need is greater than ever, and that changes can occur sooner rather than later.
We celebrated any successes. We gave thanks for our blessings. We mourned with clients when they suffered the loss of family members to the pandemic.
As we approach the end of 2020, I continue to be sustained through being thankful – for the continued opportunity to serve our clients, for the ability to see my colleagues each week, and for the blessing of living here.
My best wishes to you for a healthy and happy new year!
Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman:
Over the last year, while I watched other communities call for defunding the police, it sustained me that I live in and work with a community that is very supportive of law enforcement. As there were protests and riots across the state, the Sheriff’s Office was receiving words of encouragement as well as gifts of gratitude. This has continued throughout the year and has been uplifting to myself and all of the employees at the Sheriff’s Office. Thank you to the community for their acts and words of appreciation!
Rhonda Jicinsky, CT’s Deli LLC:
What sustained me in 2020 is the mindset of being “ok” not knowing… not knowing each morning what the future holds but living each day grateful and positive, making the best choices I can, and knowing whatever the day brings, there will be good in it.
Unrealistic, you say for a co-owner of a restaurant that doubled their footprint with a business plan where much of the income was not going to happen, and no financial safety net? As one gets older and reflects on all the challenges, changes, chapters of their life… the clichés are true if you have the right mindset. It all works out as it should and this too shall pass.
We kept our business open and worked full time with a team that is passionate about their work which generates positive energy, creativeness, willingness to be flexible, and a “failure is not an option” attitude. One day at a time, the universe provided the right amount of monetary support and emotional support.
Kate Bauman, owner, Unique Creations:
Many things have sustained me through 2020. Professionally, it’s undoubtedly been the community support. When I reduced retail hours due to the pandemic, clients have continued to support my business by booking jobs well into 2021. No words can express my gratitude for that and for them.
Personally, it’s been the attitude of “what can we learn from this?” I’ve learned: how to adapt in business, how to accept what is, how to be more flexible, that we can slow down and still survive and that we need to care less of what others think and do what’s best for us in the interest of health. The passing of close friends has reminded me that time with loved ones is more valuable than money.
It’s only when we leave our comfort zones that we grow. 2020 may not have been the best year for many of us, but it certainly gave us that and I’m grateful for it.
Anne Williams, Oneida County 4-H Coordinator:
What sustained me in 2020 was knowing how much we will need our young people’s help someday with our food, water, air, health, equity, problem-solving skills, and compassion. During times of adversity, I was sustained by the sparks of optimism I felt when I saw young people connect with others through 4-H programs and share their hopes for the future, even as choices in their lives were being restricted. 2020 reminded me how much our society needs our next generation of leaders to be ready to face the challenges the future will bring. With our help now, they will be there for us tomorrow.
Virginia Roberts, Director, Rhinelander District Library:
What sustains a nerd like me might be books. Normally. This, however, is the new normal. Like the rest of the planet, I tried reading. I managed exactly two works of fiction during the lockdown and two since then. Also like the rest of the planet, I sought information. Wasn’t that nerve-wracking! It still is, even though most of us have built up tolerance by now.
What then, kept me going? Talking with my colleagues about how to do this, whatever this is, and how we are doing–on the phone, on social media, and then, online. I have a love/hate relationship with online meetings. But just seeing and being able to speak with people outside of my home was huge. Then to discuss ideas with RDL library staff how to best serve the public was inspirational. We did things we’d never done before, like host online story time from home, have virtual summer reading programs, reconfigure the library for space and put sanitizing stations everywhere, and even run the library from the curb. The support of the staff Wisconsin Valley Library System, was instrumental in keeping us online, making sure libraries were ready to lend, getting everyone virtual, and sending all kinds of ideas and even more information. I don’t know what I would have done without the thrice weekly director’s meetings and follow up messages and emails. It really told me librarians in our little corner of the world and throughout the country were all learning how to serve our public during a pandemic—all of us headed in different directions but heading to the same goal—to serve you best.
When the library reached out—first to the municipalities that make up the district, the Rhinelander District Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Library, then to the GFWC Rhinelander Woman’s Club to purchase more e-books, Northern Arts Council, to name a few. Also to area media, businesses, schools and nonprofits like the ADRC / Meals on Wheels, 4-H, and others – to partner with the library to keep people creating, reading, and learning – you said yes! Finally, everyone sustained the library with their support and understanding staff are getting library materials to you in the safest, best, way possible. It means so much to hear thank yous and encouragements, as well as receive your donations, day in and day out. Every note and letter, email and message, card, and call, tells library staff the work is important in the community and to you. Just like the Rhinelander area is so important to us. Community connections are what sustained us working in your library. Thank you.