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Dec 7, 2020
Posted Under: President's letter

Holiday lights for Diwali, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa – that is what I savor on an evening ramble through my neighborhood during these dark days of winter. They’re in the trees, windows, and roofs – inside and outside. Their sparkle lights my way both literally and in my heart. This year – the year that is so very different, the year that is like living in a snow globe that is forever in dizzying motion – I have noticed a few things about these lights.

First, there are more of them, a lot more. Second, they were out way earlier than I can remember from years before now. Third, while they still bring me great kid-like joy, they also have me wondering more about how the people who put them out are doing. I wonder if they are recovering, or if their family is sick. I wonder if they have lost or kept their job. I wonder if they are lonely or hungry. I wonder if someone or some nonprofit is helping them right now. And I wonder if they know that the lights they hung are helping me, too. In all my curiosity, I realize more and more that I just don’t know the answers, and I never will. But I also am finding some comfort, just as I did back in March, that the act of knowing is not what this time and space is all about. I am reminded daily, instead, that ambiguity wins in 2020 and our collective journey through this time is all about staying present, curious, and compassionate.

I have been reflecting a lot while on my walks under the lights that our job is also about learning our way forward. Going back is not an option as we cannot unsee what COVID has laid bare for us. It has deeply exposed systemic disparity, communication rifts, underfunded and underappreciated public health science, political strife, and it has deepened the divide between the haves and the have nots. It has done all of this and so much more. But amidst the sorrow has been a dramatic and subtle shift in the way we work that is proving to be better. We have learned to trust our adaptations and lean more into courageous and honest conversations about equity and the value of more collaboration and less silo approaches to our missions. We have asked better financial resiliency questions when faced with unimaginable choices. Yes, we have learned to go forward. So let’s keep going.

If I could string a set of lights to display our collective learning these past ten months and have those lights lead us – not just to the end of this year but through the challenges that lay ahead as we face 2021 with little assurance that federal or state relief is coming, or worse – I would hold up the incredible bright examples of our nonprofits and the way they have responded to this public health crisis – this oh so very human and so very personal crisis.

There would be lights:

  • For our arts and culture missions that are adapting, sharing, and engaging us and each other even when their physical spaces are dark
  • For our healthcare providers who are working in unimaginable conditions to save our lives even when it means risking their own
  • For our human service providers who are working alongside our most vulnerable Alaskans who only double and triple in their numbers and their needs as this pandemic and economic crisis rages on
  • For our education heroes who are teaching us and our children about adaptability and resiliency even as the cracks and gaps of the digital and learning divides widen
  • For our environmental champions who encouraged us to take a break and go outside to breathe clean air and drink clean water knowing that Alaska is worth protecting for all of us to live, work, and play
  • For our animal caregivers who simultaneously met unexpected loneliness with rescue puppies and kittens we never knew we needed, while also helping those who had to give up their furry friend when they lost their job or their home, and to those who safeguarded our Alaska wildlife in their care so they will be with us on the other side of this time
  • For our civic leaders who strategized, activated, engaged, partnered, and raised their collective voices for relief funding and policy that could help us keep going – most will never know the endless hours of their meetings all with one purpose, to serve their community
  • For our religious stewards who heeded the call to keep their congregations safe and found new ways to be together – to heal, to pray, to celebrate, to mourn, to find community – and to always be there when we needed you
  • For our philanthropic investors who shifted, rallied, and listened – yes, the money mattered but so did your compassion and commitment to Alaska’s missions
  • For each of you who Zoomed your way through the day when a friendly hug or a hallway chat is what you really needed
  • For each of you who did and are still doing the untenable balance of home school and nonprofit work – each night you collapsed into bed forgetting that you never drank any water or made it to the bathroom for hours because everything just seemed too important to stop and care for yourself
  • For you who still found time to connect in a meaningful way to share your time, your talents, and your treasure with others

Each of you is a brilliant light, all the stronger as you shine together across Alaska – in every community, in every home, in every way. We simply could not deliver our missions without you. You are our brightest lights in this season and the next, and with you we will find our way forward.

From our Foraker family to yours, may you keep each other safe through this season.

Laurie