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There's no escaping the fact that 2021 has been a trying year. The pandemic has marched relentlessly forward, sending waves of grief, isolation and general hardship in all directions. And with so much of the suffering now largely preventable through vaccination, the fear that hovered over the virus has been largely replaced by a dull, ever-present sadness. But amid all those very real feelings, it's important not to lose sight of all we as a community have to be thankful for. It's a lot.

We're grateful for the many nonprofits working daily — pandemic or no — to make Humboldt County a better, more equitable and inclusive place for everyone, and for all the people who volunteer their time to further those missions. And in 2021, we're especially thankful for Food for People, which kept so many of our neighbors fed through extraordinary economic hardship, Cooperation Humboldt, which helped households discover the power of growing their own food and the peace it can help bring, and Betty Kwan Chinn, who has continued and expanded her relentless efforts to care for Humboldt County's homeless residents.

We're grateful to all the teachers and school staffers who have worked tirelessly to get our kids back in classrooms and to keep them there, integrating COVID mitigation measures into their routines while working to close achievement gaps and provide those children most at risk shelter from the proverbial storm.

We're thankful for all the police officers and firefighters who continued answering calls with professionalism and grace, even amid fears of infection and as their own families were struggling under the stress of the pandemic, and who have increasingly been left to grapple with the very real mental health crisis we are facing. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to those firefighters who came from near and far to save communities threatened by wildfires this summer, doing grueling, dangerous work amid unprecedented conditions. Thank you.

We're grateful to the artists and performers who kept online forums for creativity and adapted live performances to outdoor venues, those who struggled to keep us connected to each other. You streamed variety shows and held distanced dance classes, hosted safe events and painted murals, reminding us of beauty and the power of shared experience.

We're thankful to the Native activists in our community who once again resuscitated Klamath Dam removal in what seems a promising final push to revive an ecosystem, save species and reclaim a way of life.

We're also grateful to those who have taken powerful steps to address generations-old wrongs, whether it be removing a plaque honoring a Nazi collaborator from one of the most beautiful places on Earth, restoring the rightful name of Sue-meg to a breathtaking state park or pushing the city of Eureka to honor Chinese residents who resisted efforts to expel them from the city.

We're thankful to the scores and scores of nurses and healthcare workers who have volunteered their time to put shots in arms in an ongoing effort to protect our neighbors — and our entire community — from COVID-19. And we're grateful for the nonprofits like True North Organizing Network, volunteer fire departments and community centers that have worked so hard to help overcome misinformation and language barriers to get folks vaccinated.

We're grateful not just for the 61 percent of our neighbors — that's 83,459 of us — who have gotten fully vaccinated in an act we view as patriotic and community minded, but for everyone who has taken this virus seriously, masking up (and wearing them properly), being mindful of physical distancing and refraining from gathering and mixing households when we knew it wasn't safe. Thank you.

And perhaps most of all, we're thankful for our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and support staff. You have now spent the better part of two years trying to save us from this disease, while helplessly watching too many of us die and even more of us suffer, often while working long hours away from your families and stifling your own fears of infection. And you've done all of this while a portion of your charges have been indifferent to your advice, if not downright hostile. As a community, we owe you a debt we can never repay. Thank you.

As 2021 draws to a close, we're reminded of those banners that were so popular in the pandemic's first months, loudly proclaiming above hospitals and grocery stores that "heroes work here." The truth is, we have lots of heroes in Humboldt County, working hard every day to take care of their neighbors and this place we all call home. We'd all do well to keep their efforts and sacrifices in mind, and endeavor to approach 2022 with all the gratitude and grace we can muster. We're going to need it.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the Journal's arts and features editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ThadeusGreenson.

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About The Authors

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

Thadeus Greenson

Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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