< Back to the Blog

Looking Back at 2020 with Gratitude

Written by Community Director Tyler Colbourne

In the fall of 2020 I surveyed our staff on the topic of gratitude. Our staff are embedded in collective impact projects, supporting weaving and network building, and are providing evaluation expertise in Nova Scotia and throughout Atlantic Canada. Gratitude is a challenging concept to consider, and a sometimes difficult feeling to engage with when you can see and experience the inequities and suffering of the world. It has been an exceptional year, where I have been reminded time and again of the deep levels of care, knowledge, and skill the staff of Inspiring Communities has continued to demonstrate and carry into their communities. 

When I asked what our staff were most grateful for this year, I received many different responses. During 2020, our staff have experienced a lot more than just the pandemic. Among us are new parents of children and puppies. We have taken up new hobbies, learned new skills and faced challenging times. 

A few themes have emerged. 


Many of our staff felt grateful for the health of themselves, their family, their coworkers, and the people in their lives. As our world endures a pandemic we can see our health as part of a larger complex ecosystem while also seeing how our health exists in the microscale. With daily media reports and government updates on case numbers and the impacts of the pandemic, we can easily see some of the larger health impacts regionally, nationally, and globally. Meanwhile, we can see and be grateful for the health of our loved ones and our colleagues. The pandemic has also offered a different sense of what it means to be healthy and how we might live full and healthy lives, while also being mindful of our impact on others and our collective needs. 

Working from Home

Prior to the pandemic many of our staff already worked remotely, however, in Lockdown 1.0, all of us worked from home. Many of us have continued to work from home and our staff recognized this as one thing they were grateful for. As case numbers and ways of working shifted and restrictions were eased then reinstated, our flexibility did not shift. Even as we started to reopen our offices and find ways of working in person, we also acknowledged and appreciated the flexibility that allowed for many to work from home and remotely. 

Trying new things

There was recognition for the culture and support of our organization and the adaptations we made throughout the pandemic. No response is perfect; however, our organization embraces experimentation and learning, and we have been adapting as we have progressed through the year. Many of our staff expressed gratitude for learning how to use new technology, platforms, and tools. Also, being in isolation or in smaller networks and bubbles has allowed many of our staff to find new ways to connect. Through all of this, our staff expressed gratitude for having a work culture that allows us to demonstrate patience, understanding, and an understanding that with trying news things, sometimes we also experience discomfort.

Being in Atlantic Canada

“Being together after being apart.” One of the benefits of living and working in Atlantic Canada has been our relative isolation from COVID-19. While we have been impacted and experienced loss and challenge, we have also been grateful to see lower case numbers per capita than other areas of the country and the world. Our staff recognized this in the survey and expressed gratitude for being able to take advantage of reduced restrictions, including being able to safely hold in person meetings and be less physically distant at times. Additionally, many staff recognized that there is a quality that comes with being Atlantic Canadian that was a supportive factor throughout this year and the pandemic.  

Grateful, and Mindful of Privilege

Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” In recognizing the inherent challenges and tensions between expressing, feeling, and searching for gratitude while also holding the reality of harm and injustice, I asked, “How can we hold gratitude while also being critical of inequities, injustice, and harm? What is the relationship between the two?”

Our staff responded by recognizing the tensions and inherent conflicts within this wicked question. Our work at Inspiring Communities and Wayside is grounded in systems thinking and an appreciation for complexity. We recognize the challenges, consider the many contributing factors, and we acknowledge the many ways joy, suffering, and more can and do co-exist. Our staff have learned that strong boundaries are needed while working from home to maintain gratitude while also holding the challenges of complex social issues. Our staff also recognized the importance of never taking things for granted and how critical it is that we use our privilege and power to eliminate systemic barriers experienced by others. 

In 2020 we have deepened our learnings around systemic injustice, we have practiced working in emergence, and we have discovered new things about ourselves and each other. 

Photos used in top image are copyright 2020 Inspiring Communities. Background image is canstock solarseven. Image was available as a free download in 2015.

Share this:

Comments are closed