In November we invited you, our user community, to reflect on your experiences in 2021 and select a word that has drawn our society’s attention to something important. We also suggested consideration of possible links between this past year and the future.  And we asked for essays that explain the significance this word has had in your life, through personal experience or through awareness of the experiences of others.

We received a good number of interesting submissions. As we said in our December Newsletter, some of the words reflect our users’ feelings while fighting the pandemic – words such as hopepersistence, and perseverance. Some, such as kindnessfamily, and community, reflect our shared human connection during these changing times. Some refer to the scientific tools we have needed to confront the virus—words like mask and vaccine. And some users have put forward words that show concern about social issues, such as racism and justice.

The winning essay is on “resilience”, nominated and advocated by Daniel Feldman. And the runners up are “woke” and “transformation”. Here are the three essays.

1. resilience

personal definition: A behavior that combines responsibility with focus and strength  
personal example: A person’s resilience demonstrates that person’s conscientiousness.                          

The media and the overall focus and mood in the U.S. has seemed to encourage fear, depression, and in some areas, even a deterioration of moral principles. Society has encouraged a sense of entitlement and lack of being proud of one’s own efforts. Thus, I find that I have had to be resilient. It combines the highest qualities of steadfastness, strength and focus. People who are resilient understand their goals and work extremely hard to accomplish them. They know that even with the inevitable bumps and blocks along the way, they will deal with them, overcome them and continue to work hard to achieve their goals. They do not allow others to convince them that they can’t accomplish their goals. We can rely on such people because they stay focused. These people are good mentors and examples to society.

(Submitted by Daniel Feldman)

2. woke       

personal definition: Unwarranted or excessive application of anti-racist thought, principles. or action.      
personal example: The school board’s actions reflect a sharp rise in woke attitudes.                                  

Woke appears at first to apply to legitimate and wanted awareness of how racism in our society affects everyone. But some people use it to vilify others because of their anti-racist beliefs or actions. Perhaps the people who use the word this way at the same time seek to justify their own racist attitudes and actions.
Woke, used in this way, both perverts the sense of the word and subverts the actions of legitimately anti-racist people.
Woke further deepens the divisions among people by impugning the motives and actions of people, many of whom are motivated by a genuine desire to improve the peaceability of society and the well-being of persons.
I believe that all of this remains true, even though some peoples’ actions and beliefs may be excessive.

(submitted by Geral Fraser)

3. transformation     

personal definition: big change, as in a butterfly emerging from her cocoon                
personal example: The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led to unprecedented transformation in the way we live.  

Change is an unchanging character of life, as one philosopher pointed out, but the change that took place once the disease reached pandemic proportions has probably been the most violent since the world wars. I call it violent, because it was a change for the worse, it was forced on us, it was global, and it occurred in the blink of an eye. This is not about lockdowns or economic hardship; this is about an invisible virus ushering in a new social and economic paradigm. I believe that the transformation into a technologically advanced, if economically strained, state was imminent anyhow, but I could never have pictured the global society succumbing as a whole to the situation so fast. We are now experiencing a very painful phase of the transformation and I hope better days will follow, but I hope wisdom and compassion lead those who will be leading us through these difficult times so that we can all make it to those better days.

(submitted by E. Yesim)

Many thanks to those of you who participated and submitted essays to support your selection.