What to be grateful for in 2021? Angelenos say family, health


KCRW listeners share moments they’re most grateful for from 2021, including reuniting with family and getting clean. Photo by Shutterstock.

As 2021 comes to a close, KCRW recently asked you about the challenges you’ve faced and what you’re grateful for despite those hardships. 

Pomona resident Lisa Aguilar says this year pushed her to appreciate her family more, including her 80-year-old father who lives in a nursing home nearby. 

For months, she was forced to visit her dad behind a large glass window. That changed in March.

“It hadn't hit me until I actually physically saw him in front of me. And to see him just walking towards us with his little walker was so exciting. I  immediately got teary-eyed, so it was nothing but a crying fest for about five minutes,” Aguilar tells KCRW. 

“To see him just walking towards us with his little walker was so exciting. I immediately got teary-eyed, so it was nothing but a crying fest for about five minutes,” Lisa Aguilar says about sitting with her father for the first time in months. Photo courtesy of Lisa Aguilar. 

She says that the experience really reminded her how important her family is, but also how cherished the seniors in our community should be. 

“No matter how angry we are, or the tension, it's just important to appreciate your elderly. Even if it's for a quick visit, you don't realize how important they are to you or to even hear their stories. We forget to ask them what they were like when they were young,” she says. “Once they're gone, they're gone. It's just a reminder that we need to appreciate life more and the ones around us, even though family might drive us nuts. But it's those moments that we will never forget.” 

A rekindled hope for the future

Suzanne Golas moved from Florida to Cathedral City in late 2019. Soon after, she became an Uber driver.

“I learned my way around really well once COVID shut everything down because there was no traffic. So it was a good time for me to learn how to navigate my way around town,” she explains. “I felt like I got to know the heart of the community.”

Eventually, Golas noticed her regular riders were frontline workers and those who needed to travel. She remembers one passenger especially well, who needs kidney dialysis regularly and has received treatment for the last decade. 

“He told me that he still had a plan. So once he got a kidney transplant, he was going to open a sandwich shop. … So he was going through a terrible medical condition, and he still had hope and he still had plans for what he was going to do in the future.”

It was that passenger who gave Golas a sense of hope when everything felt bleak. 

“I just thought, wow, there's so much death, and so many people are out of work and just suffering. And this guy, he's going on however many years of kidney dialysis and he still has hope for his future,” she says. “I've remembered that conversation a lot throughout the last year and a half, because … if he can have hope, I can have hope.” 

New beginnings in a new city

The last two years have been unlike anything many have experienced or know how to handle. For Jonathan Spuhler, it’s turned into a cross-country journal filled with hope and hardship. 

Spuhler has grappled with addiction for the last decade, staying clean for nearly eight years. But when the pandemic hit, much of the support he had in place — including coping mechanisms he has built — fell away. And he relapsed. 

“When the pandemic hit and I found myself at home alone, I just lost myself. Everything that I had built up over the years just started to crumble,” he shares.

He soon started on the road to recovery again, at least until he experienced a mental health crisis and he started using again. 

It was at that point that Spuhler knew he needed a serious change. He soon moved to LA from Atlanta and says it’s changed his life. 

“In the middle of May, I was huddled in the closet attempting to take my own life by overdosing and to be sitting in my own room, in an apartment that I got in a new city. I am really overcome with gratitude.” 

He adds, “I finally feel like I am in a place in my life where I can shed some of the trauma that I've experienced, where I can shed some of the masks that I've put on for other people's benefits … and could really be the person that I know I am.” 



Chery Glaser