My Java Journal

On Community: The Positive From 2020

Manotick (Ottawa), Ontario – where I discovered and enjoyed a fulsome sense of community in 2020


I wrote last year about community; community and togetherness. I wrote of a community experience I had and then related it to how community is one of the five keys to happiness, according to the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and his The Little Book of Lykke. The other four keys being:

  1. Health
  2. Freedom
  3. Trust
  4. Kindness

After such an interesting year, there is much to reflect on in this respect. In reviewing this past post and these keys, I have come to better understand the power, accuracy and importance of them – especially in adverse and challenging times.

You’ll know, if you have been following my blog, that health has consistently been my singular priority. That wasn’t an easy thing to establish with such conviction, but once I figured it out it hasn’t changed; even with constant review.


Health is the greatest wealth; it gives me everything. It allows me to be useful and available to my wife, kids, family, friends, peers and community. Not only useful and available, but I think an asset, and of genuine benefit. With health I have the energy to be present and active, to be passionate and to contribute. Without health I am at a disadvantage. Only with health can I do the things I do, and be of the most value. Health is the gateway; to everything, to life.

Looking back at 2020, I see the pandemic as an enabler to health. With shutdowns and restrictions, I was forced to not only slow down, but to find ways to stay engaged. This led me back to climbing. Hiking became a weekly activity. My poor dog gets hour-long walks now. Cold immersion training followed, and as a result of that regime my planking and body-weight training solidified as routine.

My children not only join me – so the gift of health is being passed on – but they actively seek to climb, which then, selfishly, gives me more time with them. True dividends!


After almost a year of COVID, and consequent restrictions, I think we are all better understanding the importance of, and need to never take for granted, our freedom. If I may, I think that the calm of the first shutdowns was refreshing, but now, in the second round, things are harder; our freedom has been constricted – again. Even with these reimposed restrictions, the pace of life has gotten busy once more, and yet our true freedoms – freedom of movement, freedom of connection, freedom of expression, freedom of community – remain difficult.

If we are paying attention, we will take note of this imposition to our freedoms and better appreciate the simple joys of movement, gatherings, hugs, and community. We are, I would argue, taking it for granted and not paying attention, and if it gets worse – and it may – we should be more aware of the importance of the little things, the simplest things; for these little things hold the greatest value. Imagine, something as simple as a hug, now a luxury. That is freedom lost.


Trust too is being taken for granted. This is not good, as trust too, is critical to happiness. Without going down some dark hole, I would argue, again, that political and big business interests are responsible for some of the imposed restrictions and protocols now in place. This provokes a lack of trust. We may be able to look past it, now, but for how long; how long can we, how long should we, blindly trust what we are fed, and the motivations behind them?

Trust in our government and authorities, trust in our community, trust in our peers, and even trust in our nuclear families is being tested in ways we are unaccustomed to. Communication is so critical right now, and yet, can be so hard. We all have our views on the veracity of what we are hearing and the protocols in place, and may find ourselves judgemental of other’s adherence to them. We are okay, right now, but the ‘tipping point’ could be precariously near. Trust lost is hard to reinstate. Let’s not take take trust for granted, and let’s understand how important it is to happiness – one of only 5 keys (in this CEO’s articulation).


Getting back to more positive themes here though, is the overwhelming amount of kindness I have seen. Working as a barista I talk with some 150 people a day. I try hard to be present and to listen. Overwhelmingly, it is positivity and kindness I encounter. This is not to be taken lightly. Everyday I encounter more kindness and positivity then I do callousness.

The Golden Rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated) seems to be understood and practiced, whether intentionally or not – I have faith in humanity. We can do this.

Community (Togetherness)

And here we are, finishing where we started, with community. If health is my singular priority, then community would be next in line. With a community, you can weather the restrictions to freedom, counter or expose and propitiate the effects of a loss of trust, and endure acts of unkindness – or better yet, set the example with acts of kindness. Community, or rather communities, are powerful entities; I belong to several:

I climb with one, and embrace cold waters with another. Playing music with my band is one, and I ski with another. Most certainly, I am privileged to serve as a barista to my immediate community, where I hope I bring some level of happiness to all I encounter.

I acknowledge the keys to happiness presented by The Happiness Institute, and I try hard to apply them. Now, more than ever, we need to be deliberate in our presence and contribution to community.

No doubt, 2020 was a hard year. It was, however, not a year to recall only with disgust, anger and negativity. Think on the time you had with your families, the longing and delayed gratification created for the simplest of connections and activities, the re-prioritization of the myriad facets and distractions of our modern lives. I, for one, will look back fondly on what 2020 has given me. Not to belittle or diminish the impact to so many from the pandemic, but if we reflect and recognize those most important and impactful aspects of the human experience, I think we can all find that silver lining in a year of such adversity.

I wish you all well, and the best health and happiness in 2021. Be kind, be patient, and be healthy. A belated Merry Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year.