Weekly Column

At first, it might feel strange to give thanks at the end of a year like this one. 2020 brought with it the COVID-19 pandemic, months of social unrest and economic uncertainty, and a contentious and polarized general election. People have lost loved ones, some have lost their business or their job, and many have felt anxiety and stress with teaching children at home, finding day care, or being worried about leaving home to go to the store. 

But positive things have also happened in the midst of all of this because of the good people of our state. Nebraskans have stepped up this year, just like we did after last year’s flooding and just as we always do in the face of adversity. 

When the lockdowns first began and many of our most vulnerable citizens were unable to go to grocery stores in person, their neighbors made sure they had what they needed. In Kearney, for example, members of the UNK wrestling team partnered with Hot Meals USA to deliver free meals and groceries to residents in need.

The Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership has also faced the challenge of COVID-19 head-on. They completely overhauled their business practices at the beginning of the pandemic to comply with statewide directed health measures, all while continuing to provide their crucial services to the residents of 21 central Nebraska counties.

The changes we’ve made to our lives to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have been necessary, but no one can say they’ve been easy. They have kept graduating seniors from attending their senior proms and commencement ceremonies, forced many businesses to rethink the way they operate and make tough decisions, and kept many of us from seeing our loved ones.

But Nebraskans are innovators, and we’ve found new and creative ways to make the best of these changes.

Instead of canceling their commencements, many schools postponed them and held virtual ceremonies for students. An especially heartwarming story is that of Elwood’s “reverse parade,” when the school’s 17 graduating seniors lined up six feet apart on main street to wave at their parents, families, and friends as they drove by.

Small businesses that traditionally operated almost entirely in person, like Master’s Hand in Tekamah, have seen this year as an opportunity to grow their online presence. Their website quickly became so popular that the shopping channel QVC featured them in May, which led to a huge surge in business.

The first few months of the pandemic also saw countless “window visits” to nursing homes across our state. In Omaha, a few young siblings who weren’t allowed inside to see their grandfather had their mom connect a microphone to a Bluetooth speaker so they could sing to him.

Nebraska has been on the front lines of this fight since day one. Nebraska Medicine in Omaha has done particularly outstanding work. Their research into COVID-19 treatments and therapies has been invaluable, not just to Nebraska, but to the whole country. 

Despite the success we have had, the battle against this virus is not over. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I encourage you to follow the advice of your local public health officials. It is best to avoid large gatherings this holiday season and to celebrate on a smaller scale instead.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising to an alarming level in our state, it’s so important that every Nebraskan does what they can to help one another. That means continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands. I know we can do this because stepping up to help each other in times of need is who we are as Nebraskans.

To my fellow Nebraskans: Bruce and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Please stay safe, stay healthy, and remember that we have much to be thankful for.