As Christmas comes tumbling toward us this week, I know that each of us is sorting out what this holiday means, how it feels, how it aches at the close of this brutal year. 

It is like no other Christmas. In a week it will be like no other New Year’s. 

I am blessed that no one in our immediate orbit has died from COVID-19, though certainly it feels as if in the past three weeks the virus is getting closer. Colleagues here at the Journal have had the virus in their families. The stories being swapped tell of more immediate worry.

Earlier in the pandemic one of my sisters, Jeanne, had COVID-19. Jeanne is profoundly disabled and lives at the Ludeman Center, a state facility in Park Forest. The virus has come back around there with vengeance and taken a toll on the hard-working people who provide care as well as on the residents. Another sister, also named Jeanne — it’s a Catholic thing. You get to pick your name when you become a nun — is part of an order that runs nursing homes. The ravages of COVID have been strong in those homes among both elders and staff.  

With the arrival of vaccines, it is paramount that those living and working in these care facilities, in prisons certainly, top the list of those being protected. I don’t need Marco Rubio alleging he is offering a lesson to me by taking a shot. I need my sister-in-law who works in the nursing home in Naperville to get the vaccine.

While this has been COVID’s year — and it ain’t done yet — its impact, its revelatory power has been to teach us how profound are the disparities between those of means, those who are white and those who struggle for an opportunity, whose opportunities  have been systematically closed down over generations, who are people of any color other than white.

This is real in Oak Park and in River Forest, as it is in every aspect of American life. 

And so this year brought us to the “racial reckoning.” Folks, it is only a reckoning if something changes, if everything changes. 

There is work to be done locally, there is pain to accept as part of that work. Would work better if we can bring a generous heart to the pain.

 Another big 2020 change, clearly and absolutely, here at the Journal is our reinvention as a nonprofit newsroom. We started talking about this not quite two years ago. It seemed like an imperative if we were going find a sustainable way to report local news in our seven neighborhoods. Did not know how much of an imperative until COVID hit in March and advertising collapsed like a rotted pumpkin after Halloween. 

Small and large donors, along with the federal government’s PPP loan, are the reason we remain upright and in a determined phase of change and growth. We’ve got a week until the New Year and the close of our NewsMatch fundraising project. Would love to have you sign on as part of this.

Mainly though I want to say a deep thanks to all the people who have seen the importance of community journalism. It has been beyond gratifying to see a print subscriber add a $2 donation to their renewal, to have hundreds of people who have read our stuff online for free ante up with $50 or $100. Thanks to those who have now given twice this year. Thanks to our handful of larger donors and to the foundations that are coming to understand just how core a good local publication is. Finally, thanks to the seven carefully chosen members of our first board of directors. When you are working to build something brand new, it is good to have smart and passionate people along on the journey.

To each of you, in the welcome days following Monday’s solstice, let’s focus on blessings, let’s steel ourselves for the year ahead, and let us express love and nurture empathy and hopefulness. 

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...