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ON THE SCENE: 2020 is a challenging year, but there’s hope

Ewen McDonough (Photo provided — Naj Wikoff)

Our future is uncertain. More than 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center at the University of Washington, we are on track to lose 380,000 by the end of the year, baring substantial human behavior changes as we move toward spending more time indoors.

The fires in California, Oregon and Washington have burned total area approaching the entire Adirondack Park in size. Next year is projected to be no better, and the fire season is still far from over. At the same time, we have had 23 named Atlantic hurricanes this season, the most ever, racking up more than $24 billion in damages and many lives lost.

While the stock market bounced back from a deep March dive, enabling the wealthy to do just fine, the majority of Americans are hurting with unemployment rates at 8.4%. While the current rate is down from 14%, unemployment is expected to rise unless a new stimulus package is approved, including support for state and local governments and individuals. Without federal aid, New York state funding could be cut 20%, resulting in further layoffs. When you add in the ongoing social protests, a polarized Congress, and what’s shaping up to be an unpleasant election and post-election presidential and congressional campaign, it’s a challenging year by any measure.

The good news is that we’ve been through hard times before. Humans are resilient and resourceful species. On May 27, Pastor John Sampson of the Keene Valley Congregational Church addressed this very topic, starting by reading Psalm 78. The psalm reminds Christ’s followers that God was with their ancestors when they fled Egypt with the Pharaoh and his chariot-charging army in hot pursuit. Through the desert, God led them through the darkest nights and provided them with water when they needed it.

In his reflection, Pastor Sampson said it’s critical for a community that desires to be dynamic and vital to first take an honest look at the present situation, in his words, “to tell the truth so that we can wrestle with the aftermath.” For us, he described 2020 as being a very crappy year so far, and that we have more crappiness ahead of us before the year is out. He asked, What are we to do about that? He then pointed out that Psalm 78 is a psalm of hope, that it recounted that when the future felt bleak, God gave us hope. Pastor Sampson then invited the congregation to share experiences they’ve had that provide them with hope.

It struck me that we of the Lake Placid, Keene and neighboring communities could use a bit of hope as well, so I reached out to a few people to hear their experiences.

I caught up with Margo Fish, now 90, who, while wintering in Florida, was struck by a car. Margo was in a crosswalk when a car came around the corner and hit her, sending her flying. Cracked pelvis, spine broken in several places and internal injuries were the result. The excellent news is an ambulance came quickly, so she got timely medical care, and family members arrived to be with her until COVID guidelines stopped visitation. In the hospital, she stayed during a long, painful recovery buoyed by a desire and determination to return to Lake Placid, staying at her beloved Camp Tapawingo. She arrived using a walker and now is nearly cane free.

“Running all those Boston marathons, forty-six or seven, there is a place called Heartbreak Hill,” said Margo. “You take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m going to finish. I’m going to go up that hill and make it to Copley Square.’ You accept the pain and climb those hills. When I think of all the pain and poverty in the world, the pain I’ve experienced is nothing by comparison. I have Lake Placid, my family and friends. They and this place are my hope. When I sit in my chair overlooking the lake, the pain in my back goes away, I know, and I can make it through another day.”

Another is the Tibetan musician Techung Sharzur, who manages a shop in the Alpine Mall in Lake Placid. Techung moved to the U.S. from Dharamsala, India, to pursue performance opportunities a couple of decades ago. While visiting relatives in Plattsburgh, he learned about Lake Placid and moved here, an environment that reminds him a bit of where he was raised.

“The Adirondack Park gives me hope,” said Techung. “We have this beautiful wilderness setting because, during a challenging time in our state’s history when it seems that this environment would be destroyed, people fought for its protection. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. People have to see a positive future in their life, as those who created this park did and worked to achieve. We have to instill in the future generation that there is no magic happening. We haven’t given up, and they shouldn’t either. We need to build on this example.”

Lake Placid School Superintendent Roger Catania draws his vision of hope from the many children he welcomes to school each day.

“Young people give me hope,” said Catania. “They are bright, eager and want to do right by the world. They are highly focused on the big issues we face. They are playing close attention. They want the world to work better and be a place. My hope is with this generation.”

“Having survived three weeks in the building with the children, I’m filled with more than hope,” said LPHS Student Support Counselor Tina Clark. “I’m anticipating good things to come.”

Dan Plumley, who has worked in environmental advocacy for most of his life, is inspired by the young people stepping into leadership roles like Greta Thunberg. He said they are showing that not only does the environment matter, but so do human rights.

“A friend of mine in college was a very good wrestler,” said Bill Borzilleri. “People were always coming up to him at a match and say, ‘Hey Joe, you know what you ought to do. You should do this, that, and the other thing.’ I remember one of those conversations, and after I asked him how he takes it. He said, ‘I always listen to them. Then I go and do what I want to do. But first, I listen. Maybe they’ve got a good idea.’ I think that’s what it’s about; we need to give other people a chance to talk and feel heard. You don’t have to accept everything they say, but there might be something good in their ideas. When I see that happening, that gives me hope.”

Down in Keene Valley, Ewen McDonough, covering the hardware desk Monday morning, Sept. 28, said for him it’s reconnecting with his mom, his extended family and being here in Keene.

“A silver lining being able to be up here with my mother, Jess’s parents, and that our daughter can be outside the city,” said McDonough. “That gives me hope that life does go on. Being here allows us to recenter what’s important. It all comes back to family, friends, and the relationships you have.”

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(Naj Wikoff lives in Keene Valley. He has been covering events for the Lake Placid News for more than 15 years.)