The final day of 2020 is rolling under our feet and heading out the door. Many of us are feeling the bruises from a year of fear, uncertainty, helplessness and — perhaps most of all — distance from loved ones. Yes, this year has certainly given us a swift kick in the arse; and we’d all love to return the favor as we slam the door shut on this most unwelcome intrusion into what had been a “normal” life just one year ago.
I know most people long for the days of “normal,” looking to the vaccinations as the magic bullet to return us back to the familiar, the predictable.
Oh, yes, I too long for the end of this pandemic. But I think if we wish life to return just as it was pre-tragedy, then we’ve missed the lessons 2020 could have taught us. It is often in the darkest moments of life that the biggest opportunities arise to shift gears and point ourselves toward a more positive future.
This past year has been tumultuous in nearly every way. Humans tend to think we are invincible. We think that we have the ultimate power over nature, but this year has shown us just how wrong we are. From an invisible pathogen to roaring flames whose smoke could be seen from space, Mother Nature put us in our place, though it has been our own actions that ultimately led us down this path. Mother Nature can also teach us balance and harmony, if we let her.
On the crest of this new year, when the grim numbers roll in for daily COVID cases and deaths as the vaccinations begin making their slow way into the bloodstreams of first the most vulnerable and down to the last of us, we have some important choices to make. The vaccines offer the sliver of hope in the darkest days of the virus, but what each of us does right now and in the coming months will have repercussions that last long past the virus.
What has this year taught you?
I read an article about how some people are taking the opportunity to turn obituaries for those they lost to COVID to plea for others to do the right thing. One stands out in my mind. A man wrote about the death of his father. He said that his dad was born into a country where WWII brought sacrifices from everyone for the good of all and died in a country where people feel like wearing a mask is a personal choice and that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice for anyone. The man was born and died in the U.S., but it was not the same country when he died as when he was born.
This country exists in an extreme dichotomy at the moment. Our political strife is merely a symptom of larger issues. On the one hand, we have those who think the virus is a hoax, or nothing more than a cold. True, there are those who get it who do not suffer much. But a lot of people die. And it isn’t just the old or the frail.
On the other hand, we have such amazing acts of courage, kindness, bravery and generosity. We have groups of people giving their time and resources to help those in need. The doctors, nurses, healthcare specialists, paramedics, cleaning crews, intake workers and all of their families who sacrifice each and every day to care for those who enter their hospitals are the biggest heroes of the year, without a doubt.
But there are other heroes, too. Like the service workers, mail carriers, police and fire department personnel, teachers and all other service providers who don’t have the option to work from home.
And then there are those who volunteer to help, simply because they want and feel the need to do something good.
The people who set up food donation locations outside their homes or in hard-hit areas. The folks who had the ingenious idea to take used refrigerators and repurpose them as a way to get fresh food to those in need. How cool is that?
The food bank workers and churches who go the extra mile to make sure the vulnerable are fed.
The kids who collected and delivered toys to other kids so they wouldn’t miss out on Christmas.
The list goes on and on.
We can easily get bogged down in how hard this year was — and it was, and still is, very, very hard — or we can choose to look at 2020 as the year we discovered what it means to be kind, how much potential we humans have to do good things, the value of sacrificing for the greater good when the situation calls for it and the gifts we have in our lives.
As 2021 opens its arms to us, we can choose to take the lessons we’ve learned and carry them into next year to make this world a better place.
Maybe this past year can be a different kind of kick in the pants. Maybe it can be the kind that gives us the nudge we need to follow our dreams, motivates us to live our best lives, encourages us to send love out into the world and beckons us to savor each and every moment we have on this Earth, not taking for granted the gifts we have and the people who love us.
What do you think? Which kind of kick in the pants will you choose?
Love and Peace in this New Year.