Responding to

"When it rains, look for rainbows;
when it's dark, look for stars."

Oscar Wilde
Autumn is here and there's no question this year's holiday season is going to be different. Everything about the holidays, from shopping, to cooking, to entertaining, to traveling, will be affected by COVID-19. And the complexity of anything we choose to do will likely be dramatically increased as well.

From the Jewish New Year which just passed and which is typically a time of celebrating with friends and family, to Halloween, and all the way through to New Year's Day, celebrating anything this holiday season will require some adjustments. Topping off the known challenges is that the rules seem to change regularly so that planning more than a week in advance feels rather daunting.

As Jeva Lange writes in The Week, "It's hard to imagine Thanksgiving and the winter holidays without family or travel, but in the midst of an unchecked pandemic, it's even scarier to think about carrying on as normal." Back in mid-August when Jeva was writing those words, CNN found that nearly 60% of people are planning on not traveling this holiday season, up more than ten percent from last year. Nevertheless, lots of people are planning to travel so, if you're one of them, your planning should start even earlier than in years past.

Figuring out a way to travel with the least amount of risk to yourself and others is probably the most important first step. Driving long distances means finding places to stay along the way. Flying means selecting an airline that is following rigorous risk-mitigation protocols. Some airlines are keeping middle seats empty in order to minimize on-board crowding. Alternative accommodations and lengthier stays will probably be another factor to consider, particularly for anyone visiting older or vulnerable relatives. COVID-19 tests likely won't show a positive result until a few days after exposure, and the incubation period can be up to two weeks. 

Before folks have gathered together, you'll also need to negotiate how stringently to take protective measures. Will you always wear masks around each other? Will you form localized "quarantine pods" to keep different groups of travelers separate? What about leaving the family bubble to go shopping or to a restaurant or to see friends? What will you do about friends and family who aren't taking the outbreak seriously? Would a virtual holiday dinner be a safer option?

Now that we're more than half-way through September, it's time to think through some of these things. Each of us will have to manage balancing common sense during a pandemic with our beloved holiday traditions.
Adding to the challenge of planning for the holidays is the challenge of simply planning anything. "The questions are endless and the answers are always changing," says Nick Tasler, an organizational psychologist. “One day the WHO recommends this, and the next day the CDC recommends something else. One day the economy is opening back up. A week later it’s closing back down. And all of this change [is] not just day-by-day, but country-by-country, state-by-state.”

To help cope with the psychologically jarring upheaval to our daily routines, Nick suggests a technique called temporal distancing, which he describes as like having access to our own personal mental time machine. By visualizing the future, we ask ourselves, “In ten years, how will I want to remember telling the story of how I responded to this crisis?”

Fear of change is something many of us struggle with. But operating from a place of fear doesn’t allow us to tap into our full cognitive abilities, according to Margie Warrell, a leadership expert. "It undermines the quality of our decision making, stifles our creativity and impairs our ability to take the most constructive actions we have within us to take. Right now, people are dealing with immense uncertainty, but the truth is, we’ve never really had certainty. We just thought we did. That was an illusion.”

Finally, reframing our situation is something many experts suggest. Most of us set intentions and made assumptions at the beginning of the year that are no longer valid. “Reframing unexpected change is saying, ‘I can learn from this and hopefully my future will be better from it,’” according to Benjamin Hardy, PhD, an organizational psychologist. He adds, "It also helps to know this is happening to every person in the world."

Volunteers who will be traveling or who will be hosting out-of-town guests should let Lauren know as early as possible about your plans so that she can adjust schedules as needed. New Mexico's travel-related quarantine requirements have changed based on seven-day rolling average positivity rates, and they may change again. Additionally, it's not just about where you're traveling but the risks you take while you're traveling that will be important to consider. The same is true for hosting guests from elsewhere.

Kitchen Angels is making our own holiday changes this year. For Thanksgiving, we'll still send our clients a traditional feast with all of the trimmings, but we will have to curtail our usual influx of community volunteers. Likewise, we won't be holding our Spirit of Giving work day and celebration. This year we're buying preassembled gift boxes from a local merchant who will deliver the gifts to Kitchen Angels ready for our clients. Instead of donating a gift, you can help by sponsoring one or more of the gift boxes. Sponsorships are $50 per client and any amount will be accepted. Click here and choose Spirit of Giving from the Donation Categories drop-down menu. You can still help brighten our clients' holidays, and this year it will have to be from a distance.

Some of the choices we'll have to make this holiday season are going to be tough, no doubt. But everything comes back to keeping our volunteers, staff and clients as safe as possible.

To each of you and the entire Kitchen Angels family, thank you for all you do, every day, to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.

In gratitude,
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.