Each year as the holiday season approaches, we inevitably hear the calls for peace on earth and good will towards each other. They are universal messages that ring true, and they resonate particularly deeply this year across our College community.

It is a time when we take extra care to think past ourselves. We turn to our neighbours, classmates, colleagues and the strangers we meet on the street and send best wishes and offer kindness. In so many ways, we’ve already been called upon this year to show our humanity. We’ve been asked to put the safety of our College community front and centre in all that we do.

We’ve had to be more patient – waiting in line at the store, wearing our masks, washing our hands, tiptoeing around the house while a housemate finishes a Zoom lecture, and becoming daycare moms and dads. We’ve had to study in distracting home environments, self-screen to enter campus buildings, and prepare – or participate in – virtual classes for the first time. And many of us have been asked to work and learn exclusively from home – instead of from the comfort and familiarity of our campuses.

I personally want to thank every learner and employee for the patience and professionalism you have displayed this year. Thank you for the resilience and flexibility you have shown throughout the pandemic. And that thank you extends to the parents, spouses, partners, children and friends who have also made sacrifices to accommodate members of our College community – to allow them to continue to learn and work effectively.

While we wish things were back to normal on campus, it is remarkable how we have come together to face these ongoing challenges. Your collective efforts have helped us get to the end of a successful fall term. I also want to wish every learner success in their end-of-term exams and evaluations – and recognize the dedicated academic and service teams supporting our students during this crucial period.

Every year at this time, we also see an outpouring of goodwill towards those who are vulnerable and in need of assistance. This year, the need will be even greater. So many have been adversely affected by the pandemic and are struggling financially, with daily stresses taxing their own health.

Those of us wrestling with anxiety should always keep in mind the College’s own mental health resources. The holidays can be a lonely time for some people, and this year may be more difficult by being separated from loved ones. Please do not hesitate to connect if you are feeling isolated.  We must also be cognizant of those among us feeling alone and vulnerable – and strive to reach out to connect with peers, colleagues and friends who may be in need of extra support.

During the holidays, I hope we all find time – even a few precious hours – to set aside the world and its challenges and truly find some peace. I know many of us will be making sacrifices this year by not having our traditional gatherings. It will be difficult, but remember that we have earned this time to lay down our burdens, kick up our feet and take refuge in the company of the people we hold dear – even when everyone cannot be together around the same dinner table.

As the temperature drops and the days grow shorter, we see lights illuminate our neighbourhoods and our own homes and dorm rooms, reminding us that soon enough we will return to brighter days. To you and your loved ones, I wish a happy and healthy holiday season.