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Patience and unity have historically been essential practices for getting through difficult times

Growing up most of us spent the month of December waiting. Waiting for Christmas. We waited with anticipation, with hope and with expectation.COURTESY PHOTO - Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson, Woodburn Independent - Opinion  Swenson: Community leaders stand at the ready

Waiting is hard. Most of us grown ups have spent the majority of this year waiting - waiting for this grinch of year, that continually shook our expectations, to be over. It's led me to think of the Christmas times when my parents were young.

Born in the 1930's, their early childhood was spent during the Great Depression, then they came of age during World War II. They experienced Christmas times when the whole country was shaken economically, then with and all consuming war, waiting for hard and difficult times to be over.

The Christmas story, and the Advent that leads up to it, is all about waiting: Mary waiting for her child to be born, the Jewish people waiting for a Savior to appear, the wise men on their long journey – all waiting with the trust that good things were to come.

I can't say that I've been very good at waiting this year. Probably because it is so hard – and since I didn't grow up in hard times like my parents – I'm not as familiar with how to get through them.

But I was raised on the stories of the sacrifices my parents and their families, their communities and our country made during the depression and the war effort, from curfews to ration books, to donating any and everything they had to fight a common enemy and lesson the chance our soldiers would die in battle.

While not a World War or a Great Depression, we are in a time where we're fighting a common enemy and adjusting our behaviors so less people will die. And then, like now, liberties and ways of life were affected and not everyone was happy about it.

I know that for me, and for many, we seem to be reaching our limit. Having medical experts and state governments across the country tell us not to gather too much together precisely during the holidays seems harsh. And I see the argument that many of the current limitations are also causing damage played out in kids not in school and families struggling to survive economically and emotionally. And I am tired of not gathering.

But I also understand that the argument to sacrifice some of our liberties and ways of life is important if we are to stem a pandemic that could take many more lives if we don't protect each other and those most medically fragile by not gathering, especially during the holidays.

As you can see, I'm struggling with this myself. What I do know is that in the middle of difficult times it's better to set aside anger and blame and focus on getting through it the best we can. This is especially true during this season of peace, where the spirit of giving and the appreciation of gifts – and of what's most important in life - should take precedence.

I am calling on the the courage and grit of my parents' and grandparents' generation, and the good people throughout Woodburn's history, who spent many a Christmas in hard and uncertain times determined not to let the difficulty of those times dampen their holiday spirits.

What's important in community is each other. My holiday spirits, while challenged, are very thankful for the gift we are to each other in this community.

— Eric Swenson is the mayor of Woodburn and is a member of the Woodburn School District Board of Directors.


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