What I learned from nursing assistants, single moms and health experts this year

Editor’s note: Deseret News InDepth writers reflected on their work in 2020. Here’s what they learned:

I hung up the phone and sighed.

Suddenly my own struggles of working from my bedroom while corralling home-schooling children didn’t seem quite so tough.

For nearly an hour I had listened to a certified nursing assistant describe 12-hour shifts running from one end of the care facility to the other, with barely enough time to ask his elderly COVID-19 patients’ names.

His account made my head spin and my heart hurt.

That phone call would be just one of many this year that made me pause and say a little prayer, asking for blessings upon a source before I started to write.

As a journalist, I’m lucky enough to talk to people for a living. I learn about individuals’ struggles and successes and then share those as a window into the collective human experience, hopefully building bridges of understanding while also providing information that helps people be their own best advocates.

This year, like many of my colleagues, I’ve been reporting on the pandemic, from its impacts on families to the complicated process of developing a vaccine.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, yet as I reflected on the stories I was privileged to tell, I was struck by an encouraging theme — one that goes beyond the obviousness of living through a pandemic.

It’s the theme of courage.

Courage in the face of unprecedented obstacles.

Courage amid unrelenting pain.

Courage despite the uncertainty of today, let alone tomorrow.

I saw courage in the story of a single mother who valiantly juggled work Zoom meetings alongside toddler meltdowns and baby diaper blowouts after her child care centers closed.

Lisa Jones holds her daughter, Rory, 10 months, as she works on her laptop as her other children, Piper, 2, George, 5, and Trent, 4, left to right, play at Eastlake Park in South Jordan on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

A courageous student mom told me about driving 10 minutes down the road so she and her children could borrow the neighborhood coffee shop’s Wi-Fi signal to complete their homework in the car.

Courage has also been a fixture in situations where it’s harder to spot, or perhaps slower to be praised — like homes where Thanksgiving tables were small and filled with faces on screens, instead of bodies in chairs, or in public spaces where twinkling eyes are the only visible signs of a smile.

The virtue has even been noticeable during hourslong vaccine meetings, where doctors and medical experts have pored over reams of vaccine data, desperate to offer a defense to the pandemic that has killed more than 335,000 people in the United States — but only if it’s safe and effective.

In all of these moments, courage wasn’t a heroic stance against a towering foe, but rather a quiet determination to act on truth, no matter the political pressure, public skepticism or personal exhaustion.

It’s stories like these that give me hope.

Because as the year winds down, we’re all still facing the unknown.

There is no exact timeline back to “normal” life and even when we’re there, the pandemic will have left us new obstacles to face.

But that’s OK.

Because courage doesn’t require that we have all the answers or that we never feel exhausted — just that we do the best with what we have and keep moving forward, one day, one moment at a time.

Here are a few more of my stories that showcase courage amid uncertainty and exhaustion:

Patience during a pandemic: What we can learn from a POW and a Roman slave-turned-philosopher

Did it take a pandemic for us to notice certified nursing assistants?

Coronavirus doesn’t care that you’re family

5 businesses, 5 stories. Can they recover from the coronavirus?

Who gets a vaccine?