As I write this month’s president’s message, the election has not yet happened. However, election day will have come and gone by the time you read this. So many questions challenge me now. How will we be feeling on the morning of Nov. 4? What will the vote count be, and how will the electoral college map look? Since 1797, every president has peacefully handed over power to the next. Fearing a loss, the current president has consistently raised the specter of a disputed election. What might happen if he refuses to accept the results? Would that spark civil unrest? Will the results spark civil unrest regardless? Will the Supreme Court have the last word on who won? Now that the Court is decidedly conservative, will this alone predict their support of the current administration?

These questions are somber ones. They have caused many of us much consternation. We have voted. Many of us have volunteered our time to get out the vote, whether through letter writing, texting or phone banking. Many of us have given financial support to the candidate of our choice. Now we must wait for the voting public to make their voices heard.

But there are those who fear the truth and seek to silence our voices. Threats and acts of voter suppression are rampant. Unauthorized ballot boxes have been placed in our state. The popularity of absentee and mail-in ballots has prompted Democrats to push for more lenient rules when dictating how and when such ballots are counted. Republicans have resisted such changes, with many of them arguing that the relaxed rules could open the process to abuse and fraud, even though no evidence of abuse has been found. The Supreme Court has issued orders upholding or striking down various state rules regarding which mail-in ballots will be counted. More voting challenges are bound to be filed in the coming days and weeks.

These uncertainties about the future have caused stress and anxiety for many of us. The election is only one of the many stressors of 2020. Most critically of course, we have faced a viral pandemic which so far has tragically taken the lives of more than 230,000 Americans, and which has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Sadly, the virus is not the only pandemic we have faced this year. We have also been confronted by the longstanding pandemic of racial inequality and injustice which has sparked an awakening and hard conversations about race that are long overdue. We have experienced the pandemic of divisiveness and the outrage of blatant attacks on our democracy and our Constitution. As social animals, we have faced the pandemic of social isolation, loneliness and depression, which take a toll on our psyche and our health.

Historically, when faced with a deadly external threat, our country has come together for the common good. Remember how united we felt after 9/11 when American flags were everywhere, and patriotism was at an all-time high? The COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it has shockingly and tragically divided our nation more than ever. Rather than treating the pandemic as a common enemy to be fought and conquered, some have chosen to treat the opposing political party as the focus of their attacks. This division has weakened our ability to appropriately respond to the pandemic by following recommendations from the scientific community.

While it is hard to remain hopeful and optimistic, this is exactly what we must do. I hope that we have learned something from surviving the myriad of hardships we have faced, and we will emerge stronger, more empathetic to others and more adaptable. I hope that we have learned that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression. When we see inequality, we must take it as a call to action. As the late John Lewis famously said, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” Be the change you wish to see in the world. Whether by taking to the polls in massive numbers, working to change unjust laws or speaking out for those without a voice, I hope that we have learned that we are not powerless, and that each of us has the potential to create positive change. I believe that the most important lesson to be learned from 2020 is that we cannot allow the pandemic of indifference to exist in our society. History has its eyes on us, and we are the authors of our own story. Let us use this power as a force for good.

Stay well, stay connected, stay engaged.