It is gray and snowing again — big sloppy wet flakes that turn to rain before reaching the ground. I am buoyed by the forecast, which calls for warmer temperatures that will carry us into spring. How wonderful it will be to put my ice cleats away for the season and to see at last the tiny green shoots that this snow nurtures. Soon there will be fresh food for the moose, crocus huddled in the warmest pockets of the garden and the thrill of arriving shorebirds. I am grateful.
Truthfully, the past year has at times tested my gratefulness. Whether, like me, you moved to a new town and started a new job, or you were entering your final year at Homer High School, the possibility we imagined that 2020 beckoned was quickly squashed by the heavy boots of COVID. The word “practice” took on a whole new meaning. Practice social distancing. Practice setting up zones for unpacking and cleaning your groceries as if you were in oil spill response training. Practice your new isolated remote life. Dare I mention, practice Zoom? Oy vey! I went to the Homer Bookstore and snatched up a book from the front display that promised to help me, “Wake Up Grateful.” It has.
A small scrap of paper among many on my desk has this line scribbled from some page in that book: It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch a fish, it matters that you care. I like that little tidbit. The caring nature of Homer has sustained and nurtured my gratefulness throughout the past year. I’ve seen people deliver groceries to each other, create outlets for youth to connect, get out the vaccines with unequalled efficiency, and so much more. Colleagues have gone well above and beyond the call of duty. Program partners and contractors have been exceptionally generous in our work. People I hardly know have popped up posthaste with a smile, stomping through the snow to help with all kinds of things. Others have been very forgiving of our shortcomings as we did the best we could in trying circumstances.
In addition to individual acts of kindness, the powerful lift of philanthropy has brought people and organizations across Homer through the challenges of the past year, supporting our present well-being and in doing so protecting the future of our community. One year ago, a gift from the Homer Foundation to the Pratt Museum made every difference to our future. We had recently closed the museum in accordance with CDC guidelines and state mandates. Our board and staff were meeting weekly to discuss how to proceed in the context of great uncertainty. Then came the first beam of light, a small grant through the Homer Foundation. It was a powerful lift to our spirits and our work.
Each time I visit with a community member, open a membership gift or donation, I am humbled by the power of caring. It matters not what the conversation is, or whether the gift is large or small. Whether it comes from cutting wood or catching fish. It matters that we care.
Jennifer Gibbins is executive director of the Pratt Museum.