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in the midst of all the negative, there is a potential for our community and our nation to not only return to normal - or a new normal - but actually come out of all this better than before

This is without a doubt a time when this country faces great challenges. The year began with the surge of a deadly pandemic that forced mass quarantine efforts and the closure of schools, businesses and most forms of entertainment from concerts to sporting events.

Seemingly, as the global impacts of COVID-19 began to slow, George Floyd, a black man in the custody of police in Minneapolis, was killed as an officer kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes. The event sparked outrage and reignited a passionate debate in this country about systemic racism and police brutality, especially against people of color. People held protests, some that were heated but peaceful and others that unfortunately devolved into destructive riots.

Social media memes have characterized 2020 in many ways that label it a dark time in human history. It is difficult to argue against those feelings. This year has been tough and watching the news can leave one feeling like there is little hope of ever coming out the other side in a positive light. Every reported COVID death or increase in cases and every anger-fueled argument about racism or riots just feels like another gut punch from the first year of this decade.

But in the midst of all the negative, there is a potential for our community and our nation to not only return to normal — or a new normal — but actually come out of all this better than before.

Examples can be found right here in Prineville. When the pandemic closed schools and suddenly left local high school seniors in the absence of a traditional graduation, it seemed like they might have to go without the rite of passage and just fizzle out of high school socially distanced from their friends and teachers.

That, of course, didn't happen. Instead, the schools and community members teamed up to throw a graduation parade and place banners along the streets with the students' names and pictures. What once seemed like a sad ending turned out to be a memorable one and may have given the school a new graduation tradition or two to consider.

Also, schools getting thrown into distance learning resulted in the school district evaluating how it delivers education. Going forward, the schools will not only offer the tradition classroom education — once the pandemic passes — but they will have a new menu of learn-from-home and online options to consider. Would this have happened without withstanding a pandemic?

Even the recent presence of protests in Prineville — as contentious as they have been — may produce a silver lining. In a recent Facebook video posted by the Prineville Police Department, Chief Dale Cummins revealed that he has met with local Black Lives Matter protest organizers. Yes, the video was posted to refute what one of the organizers had said about the meeting, but it also revealed that police leaders are hoping to meet regularly with Black Lives Matter advocates in an effort to understand the concerns of Prineville's African American residents and find a way to serve the community better.

Cummins acknowledged that the process will likely be difficult where agreement is not always reached, but it once again shows that there are ways to take a difficult situation and use it to improve a community or country.

Perhaps there are ways each of us, in our own sphere of relationships and influence, can find a way to do the same. Look for those opportunities and let's try to make this year end better than we found it.


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