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  • Writer's pictureAnn Louden


Updated: Feb 15, 2021

The challenges we’ve experienced in 2020 evoke the twists and turns of one of my favorite holiday movies, It’s A Wonderful Life. In the 1946 classic, actor Jimmy Stewart plays the role of revered banker George Bailey, who sees his world abruptly upended through no fault of his own. Lost and despondent, it is only through the appearance of Clarence, an unlikely guardian angel, that George rediscovers life is very much worth living.

How does George switch his mindset? By allowing Clarence to show him the good George has played in so many lives.

I don’t know about you, but I am betting most of us would love to have a guardian angel who can give us perspective about this year. Even as the much-loved holidays approach, nothing seems as it should.

We want it to be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” But, in truth, it’s more like “The Year the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

My reality check is trying to find humor in daily routine. A source of levity for me has been the innocent overhearing of sidewalk conversations as I walk my Manhattan neighborhood:

“We had a socially distanced date. Good thing! That was close enough.”

“At least I don’t have to make homemade cookies this year. You can’t eat them over Zoom.”

“Darling, no really. You don’t have to buy my toilet paper.”

"What pizza place should I order from for Christmas?"

The social isolation we have adopted to be safe has clearly ushered in brand new coping skills, some of which could be here to stay!


There is no city that does the holidays like New York. Even though the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree happened without a television or in-person audience, the tree AND the City are magical.

Gorgeous and elaborate decorations twinkle and glow along Fifth Avenue. Department store windows are lit, and crowds are strolling the streets, hungry for a glimpse of life as it always is here at this time of year. Many are locals, but a few tourists have also made their way to the City, feeling that the holidays aren't complete without a trip to Manhattan.

I have always loved the holiday season, and take pleasure in the lights, the sights, and the sounds of Christmas. Decorating my own corner of the world brings its own kind of joy. I hope you feel like celebrating too, even if this year is just a placeholder for next.


For months, New Yorkers felt relief in low case numbers compared to the horror of the Spring. No one wants to go back to the time when 800+ people were dying every day. In the interim, outdoor dining has been booming (although cold weather will bring it to a halt very soon), museums reopened, and many children are in the classroom.

Looking forward to Hanukkah and Christmas, we are balancing our desire for company, comfort, and joy with a sense of responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe. As we struggle with a desire for normalcy, leaning too far in one direction comes with a price.

Covid cases are rapidly rising here in New York again, deflating residents and discouraging health care workers who have toiled to exhaustion. Public transportation is also suffering, with huge budget cuts looming in 2021, affecting both subway and bus service, and no doubt, the City's recovery.

Many buildings are close to empty, especially in Midtown. Workers remain at home, and familiar retail shops and cherished restaurants have closed.

I was sad to learn recently that two of my favorite places are gone, both after 47 years of serving the public. The first is the old-school, much loved steakhouse Palm Too; the second is La Terrine, a beautiful housewares store with one-of-a-kind items imported from Italy.

We hang on for the day when people can work, travel, and play without the specter of illness and loss. It won't be fixed with a turn of the calendar. We will have more to endure.

But we have to be ready when the day comes. New Yorkers believe intently that New York City will return. It will just take time.

And you will return too. So don't beat yourself up over things you could have done -- or didn't do -- during Covid.

If you haven’t missed a beat, that’s fantastic. But if you have hit the wall or been less productive during this time, that’s okay. If you have experienced unusual stress and suffering, you aren’t alone.


Your Clarence is out there, shining light on the discovery of your unique value. Your Clarence may be an actual person or your intuition. Either way, listen.

Listen to that voice -- and then start making your own list of how you are valuable to the world.

You'll find your value by answering these questions:

Who loves you?

What do they love you for?

Whose lives do you touch?

Where are you making a positive impact?

What is the good you give the world? It need not be massive or earth-shattering.

You have a “thing you do." Identify it. Know the world is a better place because of it. Clarence says so. I say so.

Happy holidays, with love and hope for 2021,


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