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Rob Zabbia 2020 The Year in Review.

2020, it has become more than just a year, and it is now becoming an adjective.  We have lost so many people and so much time with our loved ones being separated because of the virus, and because of politics. It seems like neither is going away soon, and I have chosen to step away from both and focus on what matters most. I have lost too much in 2020 and being apart from family is too much for me to deal with.

One of the bright spots of 2020 for me was reconnecting with my cousins and aunts. My mom is one of 6 girls, and my grandmother was what brought us all together. We were one of those families that cousins were my friends. We had so many memories to share over the years, with a big age difference from the oldest to the youngest. Losing my sister Alexis this year to cancer was a big blow to all of us because she was the youngest of the group. 

But we had great memories from 2020 because of social media, and video conferencing. We had calls almost every week, laughed, got to see the kids and grandkids of everyone, and got to spend quality, although distant time over the internet.  My cousin recorded them, so we have something to look back to when thinking of Alexis and can share them with her girls. 

The people in my life have been an incredible source of strength in helping me deal with the loss of my sister. People started sending the girls books and crafts to help my bother in law Mike and his family keep the girls occupied. Someone even sent them the Disney Princess Treasure chest, and the girls dress up every day.  People have donated to their college fund, and it is much appreciated. It will help them have as normal a life as anyone can after losing their mom at 3 years old. They have a long tough road ahead of them, but Mike and his family have all of us to help them get through it. 

Our children are going through something that is foreign to our generation. Not since the pandemic of 1918 has anyone experienced what we see today.  The socialization of today’s youth needs to be addressed, so they don’t suffer from depression, and other side effects of social distancing. Losing your homecoming dance, your senior year of competing in sports, and performing in school plays will stay with them. 

We need to do what we can to help today’s youth deal with the situation and make the most of what they have to work with.  The resiliency of my twins, Daniel and Jessica has given me much hope for the future of our youth. My son Daniel was being recruited by some well know schools to play lacrosse. These were schools that would have a chance to make the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. His number one choice told him that they wanted to see him play in the spring on his High School team. But the season was canceled.  Then they said they will see him over the summer. The summer tournaments were canceled, and the NCAA put a blackout period in place at the Division 1 level.  It was extended, and the schools stopped recruiting for his class. Pace started recruiting him, and he accepted, even though he still had offers from Division 1 schools. Pace is a great business school, and he decided he would rather go to a school that wanted him, that had a chance of winning a championship, than anywhere else. I was afraid that he would feel like he lost the opportunity to go to his dream school, but he already has Pace gear he is wearing and was excited that a friend of his decided to go there too.   We all need to make sure that the youth in our lives will be able to overcome and adapt, and not dwell on what they have lost. 

My daughter Jessica had many obstacles to deal with this year.  Just before the pandemic, her horse, Confidential, was injured and required surgery.  She could no longer compete on her horse, which is like her best friend. She went from living at the bar 6 days a week taking care of Cody, which is his barn name, to not even seeing him because he was shipped to Florida.  At least she had her school team to ride for, but COVID shut that down as well. She qualified for the Regionals again this year and had made it to the Zones in the past, and was looking forward to getting back in the ring again. Now we are entering another season for the school team, and she already qualified to make the regionals, and there is already talk of it being canceled. This is her last chance to compete at this level since she will be going to college next year too. The schools she is interested in don’t have teams, and she isn’t sure if she wants to make that kind of a commitment during college.  Instead, she is excited to wait for her applications to be approved to some of her dream schools. 

Many children don’t have the resiliency that I have seen in my two, and it worries me. Our school district, their Guidance Counselor, Mazra, their coaches, and their teachers have all been very supportive of the children in my community. We all need to make sure that the youth in our lives will be able to overcome and adapt, and not dwell on what they have lost. It will show them early in life that we don’t always get what we want, and we must react to the environment. It isn’t the situations that define us, it is how we react to them.

Luckily the twins have a great mom, Joey, who has been there for them and by my side through this whole thing.  My wife is a professional, and a VP at an investment bank.  She has been working from home through the pandemic and dealing with her own stresses. Like many investment banks, they have been making many changes, and Joey has had to take on more roles, and try and do it remotely. She is a strong woman, who has also adapted, and taken on the role of mom since Allie, the woman who helped with the twins decided to move to South Carolina. So now Joey has been driving the kids to school, running the household, and been doing an amazing job. She also convinced me to get a puppy in all of this and has been taking care of our little guy Tucker too. I don’t know how she does it all!

In my business life, we have been challenged like many. My business isn’t anywhere near affected like the restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and others who lost so much this year.  Our customers still stayed with us, we helped them by setting up special payment plans, and we adapted to working from home.  Being an insurance agent is considered an essential business, but my staff was safer working remotely than making the trip every day.  Most of our business comes from working with realtors and mortgage professionals, so when they shut down, our new business came to a halt. People weren’t willing to make changes with so much going on in the world.

On top of all that, my lease was up. Now, this was a good opportunity, as rent prices dropped as vacancies skyrocketed. The problem for me was my landlord wouldn’t budge, and I needed to cut costs like everyone else.  Luckily, we found a new location, just a few doors down from where we were. It fit our needs better, and after 20 years, a change was in need. But dealing with construction of the new location, managing my team, trying to help my charities overcome the pandemic, and making sure my family was making it through. 

As a country, we need to come together and realize that we have much more in common than we have differences. Whomever your candidate was, we need to move on and trust the Constitution to protect the rights of the losing party. Politics is no reason for a family to separate from each other when we must deal with a pandemic. 

Most of all, we need to be there for our communities.  I learned that valuable lesson from my parents, who were very involved in the scouts, local sports, and community events when I was growing up. We had a great life in Levittown, being able to go to the town pool, be home by the time the streetlights came on, and live in safety. Being apart from them has been the hardest part of the pandemic for me. They moved to Florida a few years ago, and my dad has been fighting cancer from the very start of the pandemic. His doctors discourage me from going down to help. They thought it was a bigger risk for me to bring COVID down there with me or pick it up on my way down. When we found out my sister had cancer, it made it that much harder. My parents have had to deal with my dad’s cancer, and the loss of my sister, without my other sister Dawn or I am being able to be there for them. I guess my resiliency has been passed down from them and to my twins because as much as they are suffering, my parents are still doing well. I just can’t wait to get down there to hug them. 

So, let’s just put 2020 aside, and look forward to what is to come in 2021. Normally, I would be heading down to Florida to see my parent’s and my wife’s family. We normally go to the beach, do some boating, maybe get a morning of fishing in with my cousin, and find something fun to do with the kids.  We are still planning on going down, but are waiting because it is 2020. Either way, we will be keeping in touch with everyone on an almost daily basis and will figure out a way to celebrate the holidays and still get to see everyone.

There is so much promise ahead of us, and we all need to focus on what we can control, and how to make the most of what we have. The biggest lesson from 2020 isn’t how much money you have in your account, what kind of car you drive, or how big your house is. I think everyone has realized the most valuable thing we have is the time we share together. I for one have changed many of my priorities and spend more time with my family than I have in the past. Many of those projects that take so much of my time on the weekends get put aside when we have a 50-degree November day to go on a hike with my wife and our puppy. 

Technology offers so much promise for us going forward. The fundraisers that I help organize have all been canceled, but we have been able to move many of them to virtual events. A good friend of mine set a record in the middle of the pandemic for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the year.  Momma’s House is having a “virtual gala” to help support the single moms in their care. One of my dear friends and fellow Model Citizen nominee and I organized drives for PPE for first responders and front-line workers and are doing gift card drives to help those who are facing much more than the inconvenience of social distancing. 

We all can learn from these examples to reach out and help. As I said, we need to be there for our communities. We can’t just vote for our candidate and wait for the government to do it for us. It is up to us as Americans, members of our communities, to take care of our fellow humans who haven’t been as fortunate as many of us are. I have been blessed with a large and loving family, great friends, and an awesome team to work with. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through all of the challenges 2020 has brought without them.  

Giving back to our communities is the least we can do to make 2021 the polar opposite of 2020. If we can each help one person out there, that adds up to billions of people in need. All it takes is one person to make a difference.  I know that the people who have graced the pages of this magazine have already helped thousands of people.  So please find that toy drive, food pantry, homeless shelter, or any other local community support group. Just a few moments of your time, a few dollars of your hard-earned money can make all of the difference. 

I am honored that Model Citizens Magazine has named me the Model Citizens of the Year (Male) and I will share more about that in the January issue. The issue I just now found out I will be on the cover for and the issue will focus on what we all dream of for 2021. As John Dowling (Model Citizens Magazine Publisher would say) Live in Gratitude. Pay it Forward. Cherish your Chapters of Love.

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