By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
Well, we’ve arrived at Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday in my household. Generally, it’s celebrated by an early morning 10K, followed by the propensity to eat too much, relax a lot and enjoy hours of quality time with family and good friends. But our family’s celebration this year – like many of yours – will both feel and look very different. My family normally spends the holiday either with my very large extended family (25+ people) in the Chicago suburbs, or with my wife’s family in downstate Illinois. Our Thanksgiving celebrations each year are always with, and about, others.
But this year, it’s back to basics as we spend this holiday at home, just the four of us. We’ll have all the same foods or close approximations (only my mom can make her stuffing, and only my mother-in-law can get her sweet potato casserole just right), and we are planning Zoom time with both sides. Thanksgiving feels undoubtedly different; for 2020, I guess this feels just about right.
To be honest, I have struggled to focus on what there is to be thankful for this year. My own health, and that of my family, certainly rises to the top. But this has been a hard year because of what the pandemic has brought and what it has taken away. I had such hopes for 2020, both personally and professionally, but it feels like a failure of a year, one that we’d all like to move on from and forget as quickly as possible. I could recount all the bad that we’ve experienced as individuals or together, but the grief we each feel about what we’ve lost this year will be on our minds for a long time to come.
Instead, I’m trying to push back on the impulse to reflect on the difficulties of 2020, not because I wish to ignore them but to maintain hope and optimism instead. Because despite the bad things brought and the good things taken away this year, I can count successes in 2020. For myself, I’m healthier as I took a fresh approach to exercising and my diet; I’ve had days with my young daughters and with my wife that I otherwise would have missed; and I grew one heck of a raised bed garden (we’re still enjoying the tomatoes!).
Professionally at the Village, I saw our staff team take hard turns, face a pandemic head on and focus on our central mission to make sure we were providing the services this community needed most. We cut our budget to ensure we could live within the means of our significantly impacted local economy. Despite that, we undertook important initiatives, such as revitalizing Tudor Court in our downtown and implementing technology through the installation of new water meters. We found ways to help our business community and made necessary internal changes to make sure could serve the public over the phone or remotely. Our team navigated the massive process for the largest subdivision in our community’s recent memory. Our Village Board and Community Relations Forum dug into difficult, but necessary, discussions about racism. Most of this happened over Zoom or other video conferencing platforms…no easy task in the best of times.
I’m also thankful that as a community we came together this year and supported our local small businesses and each other. The community adapted (even when it was difficult to do so) and found ways to stick together. We all know Glencoe as a special place, and during a difficult, unpredictable year, I think it was nice for all of us to be able to call this special place “home.”
I don’t hope to repeat 2020 any time soon, though I am grateful for what we were able to accomplish despite all this year threw at us. I hope your celebrations this week, though small and socially distant, still provide an opportunity to reflect on the good this year has brought.
I wish everyone in this wonderful community a great Thanksgiving!