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NPR Listeners Reflect On All They've Gained In A Dark Year

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The losses of the pandemic of 2020 have been staggering - losses in lives and livelihoods. But in that pain and gloom, there may be some moments of hope, however small. We asked you what you may have gained in this time of loss.

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CHAVA QUINN: Hi. My name is Chava Quinn (ph), and I live in Denver, Colo. At the beginning of this year, I was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., which I had called home for the last nine years. And I was living with this undiagnosed lung disease that, at that point, had turned my 28-year-old body into this 80-year-old woman. I could barely walk. I could barely talk. I got these just earth-shattering coughs.

And then COVID hit, so I fled. And that's the day my life changed when I met Dr. Lommatzsch at National Jewish Hospital in Denver. They are this world-renowned pulmonary hospital. After our first appointment, he looked at me and he said, you know, I may not be able to diagnose you, but I can improve the quality of your life. I gained the ability to laugh again and dance again, and that wouldn't have happened without 2020.

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MARY-BETH BECKERLOTH: My name is Mary-Beth Beckerloth (ph), and I live in St. Paul, Minn. Something I've gained unexpectedly from the pandemic is a return to poetry. I've been writing my whole life, but after a personal tragedy in 2015, I just stopped entirely. And then came my first lockdown. And I was so lonely and so bored. My local writing center was offering classes online. So I spent all summer on Zoom with a whole group of poets from all over the world just sharing our work and sharing poems we liked. And that community has absolutely saved me this year.

GREG MAXWELL: My name is Greg Maxwell (ph), and I live just outside of Columbia, S.C., and I quit smoking. There was one particular day where I was feeling kind of rough. And as I put a mask on to go into a store to buy a pack of cigarettes that would probably kill me more surely and in much the same way as the COVID-19, I decided that that was kind of stupid. And since that day, I have not picked up a cigarette.

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JULIANA MCCLAIN: My name is Juliana McClain (ph), and I live in Newcastle, Maine. My job that I had had for 14 years ended early because of the pandemic. And for the first time, I was given the opportunity to think about what I wanted to do with my life and my time and my skills. And it led me to decide to go to chaplaincy school. I am an atheist. It seemed very unlikely for me to want to devote my life to religion. And as part of that path, I have recently started working at an assisted living home. And it has just solidified that this is the right choice.

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SIMON: That's Chava Quinn, Mary-Beth Beckerloth, Greg Maxwell and Juliana McClain and what they've gained and what they've learned this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.