Tractor with holiday string lights on it against a backdrop of the water tower.

CHANCELL-ING: A Holiday Wish List for Davis

"Looking back on when I was a little nappy headed boy …”

We’re all looking for ways to stay uplifted during this holiday season as the COVID-19 pandemic endures. On that note, I find myself cueing up some of my favorite music to help get through these long, quieter than usual days.

The line that started this column is from one of the artists I turn to most — the great Stevie Wonder, especially his album “Songs in the Key of Life.” The track “I Wish” always puts a smile on my face as Stevie reminisces about growing up: “Then my only worry was for Christmas, what would be my toy?”

When I listen to the song these days, I think of “I Wish” in a different way. Now, it sums up some of the optimism I’m feeling as we’re about to enter the new year. The song reaffirms my belief that we can continue to do our best to stay healthy and safe so that 2021 starts on a positive note.

So, turn it up and get those feet moving. In the spirit of Stevie Wonder, here’s my “wish” list for our Davis community this holiday season:

I wish … for everyone to stay safe and healthy

Woman gives man hand sanitizer

Aggie Public Health Ambassadors provide free face coverings, hand sanitizer and more. (UC Davis)

Our community has done a commendable job of wearing face coverings, social distancing and following other measures to keep us safe. As the pandemic shows no sign of letting up, let’s keep doing all we can to keep ourselves and each other safe. The sacrifices we make can literally help save lives.

On this note, I’d like to give a shout-out to our Aggie Public Health Ambassadors at UC Davis. These 250 undergraduate students have been at the forefront of making sure our campus community is staying safe, from handing out free face coverings to guiding people to testing locations. I’m grateful to all of them.

I wish … for everyone to find peace of mind

The anxiety and isolation of 2020 has made this a challenging year for our collective mental health. We miss our face-to-face connections and so many of our favorite activities, and it can take a toll.

At UC Davis, we’re offering mental health resources for our university community, such as online counseling appointments and podcasts that focus on coping strategies. Around the city of Davis, the Yolo County California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is providing virtual support groups for individuals and families. Don’t be afraid to reach out and understand that you’re not alone.

I wish … for our community to keep working as a team

Though the pandemic has mostly kept us distanced from one another, we’ve found ways to come together like never before. The Healthy Davis Together initiative is an excellent example of UC Davis and the city joining forces to prevent the spread of COVID in our community.

Together, we’ve offered free tests each Wednesday at the Davis Senior Center. Now, we’re about to expand. Starting Sunday, a Healthy Davis Together testing site will be launched in the lobby of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. We’re definitely making a difference and I believe we’ll keep this kind of collaboration strong in the days ahead.

I wish … for healthy dialogue and a climate of mutual respect

These are divisive times when hate speech is no longer whispered in the shadows. It’s shouted in public spaces and on social media. We’ve also been tested as a country this year with waves of social unrest and an especially stressful election season. We don’t all need to agree, but we must find better ways to engage with one another.

I’m grateful that UC Davis has provided spaces for crucial dialogue, such as an online lecture with the celebrated poet Claudia Rankine on Nov. 4 — right after Election Day. It was a powerful and timely discussion about race relations, and we need to keep conversations like these going.

Let’s plan for healing in 2021, and let’s stay committed to finding common ground.

I wish … for you to have a happy holiday season

I know that all might not feel so merry and bright in these coming weeks. Our family gatherings will likely be much smaller, and some traditions will have to wait until 2021.

We’ve dealt with a lot, and I send my thoughts to all who’ve experienced loss or hardship this year. I still believe we can find moments of gratitude and moments of joy to keep us optimistic this holiday season and beyond. We’re all in this together, and we will get through this together.

From my family to yours, I wish you a healthy and happy holiday season!