U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Each family celebrates holidays differently. This year, I think it’s safe to say we all share a similar different. Each of us has had to evaluate what our holiday gatherings will look like as we battle this deadly pandemic. Some have concluded that a Merry “Little” Christmas is what works best for their family. While that might be discouraging, just remember that the first Christmas was pretty simple, too.

Christmas is a time of hope and joy. But this year there’s an extra element of grief involved as we mourn the lives lost to this awful pandemic. At the time I’m writing this, we’ve lost 1,300 people to COVID-19 in South Dakota. Jean and I pray for those experiencing Christmas without their loved ones this year.

Christmas is sometimes called the season of giving. There is real joy in giving. We remember the gift God gave to the world through his son Jesus Christ, by sharing gifts with those we love and finding ways to give back to our communities.

Particularly, this year I’ve been thinking about Charles Dickens and his Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. With the vaccine rolling out to more and more Americans each day, it’s only a matter of time until everyone who wants a vaccine has received one. By this time next year, we all hope to be back to normal again. Until we’ve reached that point, let’s use the gift the Good Lord gave us to fight this virus: common sense.

Wear your darn mask. I know I am a broken record saying this again, but it needs to be said. We are getting better about wearing our masks when it makes sense, but there’s still improvement that can be made. If you’re out in public and cannot social distance, just wear your mask. It will help protect you and those around you. It’s also important to wash our hands and use hand sanitizer. That’s good advice for combatting COVID-19, but also other more common ailments like the cold and flu.

COVID-19 disproportionally impacts those of us who have lived longer. We need to keep that in mind as we celebrate this holiday season. I said this around Thanksgiving and it’s worth saying again: if you are worried about getting sick, stay home. If you are worried that you are sick and might infect someone else, stay home. If you have a “cold” you might actually have COVID-19. Stay home. If you’re worried about your kids getting your parents or grandparents sick, stay home. We live in the 21st century and, although it’s admittedly not the same, there are methods for us to be together virtually this Christmas.

That’s a decision each of us will have to make on our own. Only we know what’s best for our families. But while Christmas 2020 might be different, we must remember that we’re almost there and that the end is in sight. With vaccines on the way, we must remain hopeful, yet continue our diligence.

I’ll leave you with the words of an old familiar carol that I loved to hear Bing sing: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight…Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

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