In the dwindling hours of this winter of our discontent, I’ve decided to get an early jump on my family’s traditional Dry-uary. If ever a year flattened the appetite for auld lang syne and Champagne bubbles in a flute, this is it. I’ll toast the New Year with hot tea spiked with honey, a spoonful of sweet optimism to still the bitterness of doubt.

What to make of 2021 and what will become of 2022? It depends, I’ve concluded, far more than it should on the size of your investment portfolio or the weight of your debt burden. More than any other time in my life, we have become a nation of “haves” and “have-nots,” divided by money every bit as much as we are divided by identity politics and the chasms carved by real and perceived grievances and fears.

The uber-rich got richer in the pandemic, the poor got poorer, and those of us in the great in-between find ourselves wrestling with hope and doubt.

For many, the pandemic is something surmounted, at least materially, while for others, it has made challenging circumstances a descent into despair. Can any of us be content, surrounded by so much discontent?

Against such deep doubt, the only prescription is hope.

Hope that a country founded on the premise of new beginnings and equality finds its way back to good health, spreading prosperity, and life premised on this nation’s original motto, e pluribus unum, “out of many, one,” that is, out of many states, one country. One for all, all for one.

This year began with something else entirely, a scene I never imagined witnessing, the infamous storming of the U.S. Capitol by angry, aggrieved and lawless Trump supporters seeking to tear down democracy, free and fair elections, and every American citizen’s sacred right to vote.

It’s hard to overcome the enduring shock of a violent mob rioting against the U.S. Constitution, but if hope for better political discourse in 2022 is not the antidote, what else is there?

The year ends with another viral spike, and the addition of the word “omicron” to our pandemic vocabulary. The record rate of new infection is muted only by the protection afforded the fully vaccinated and the early indication that the latest mutation of the coronavirus is less lethal than its predecessors. Small comfort for those frontline workers still standing in overcrowded hospitals.

The unvaccinated suffer the new variant the most, which may prove to be a back door to limited herd immunity, but at a high and unnecessary cost to society. For the unvaccinated, isn’t the good health of hundreds of millions of the vaccinated sufficient proof that vaccines are not a danger? In the end, this science vs. politics standoff means the virus, in its ever-evolving schematics, becomes endemic. We will learn to live with it, even if it means people dying who otherwise would have lived.

How to translate hope into action in the new year? What works for me and my family might not work for you, but I take my inspiration from those in our city I most admire for their selflessness, generosity, and unshaken belief that acts of goodness can be transformative.

It’s relatively easy to make life a little better for the food insecure by giving or volunteering at the San Antonio Food Bank. I turned a closet cleaning and a long overdue wardrobe reduction into a gratifying afternoon at the Haven for Hope last week, meeting with men of my approximate size who promised to give new life to clothes that otherwise went unused and unneeded. My wife Monika and I are on the cusp of retirement, but the joy we get from helping students who are first in their families to attend college has led us to grow our scholarship fund at the University of Texas at San Antonio, my alma mater.

Philanthropy isn’t only the realm of the rich.

Here at the San Antonio Report, we are winding up our year-end fundraising campaign, so I’ll take the cash saved through Dry-uary and help the team achieve its $80,000 goal. Last time I checked, we were working on the last 10%. For the last 10 years, the generosity of our readers and donors has underwritten quality local journalism and civic engagement. Let’s continue that for the next 10 years with our new leaders.

Now, more than ever, we need good work that helps us find common ground and reminds us of our shared interest in a healthier, more equitable, prosperous city.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.