The refrain from every person – every creature – with a smart phone and social feed was simple: “So long 2020.” Come to think of it, that’s rather tame language for how most of us sent the past year packing.
In the four corners of your home (assuming you followed government advice), you rang in 2021 with delight, thankful the year-long nightmare came to a close.
Then again, did it? Did the flip of the calendar, the tick of a clock, the change in a number really change anything at all? From the scope of this pandemic, in fact, things seem worse today than they were two weeks ago, two months ago. And that’s not all.
Do we dare speak of politics? Setting aside protests and congressional maneuvers, do we really expect much to change when the letters behind our well-paid politicians’ names shift?
Do we speak of violent crimes, which have multiplied as desperation increases?
Do we speak of mental illness? In the past year, the CDC says 41 percent of us reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition. The study also said more than 25 percent of us reported anxiety disorder, up 300 percent from the prior year.
We’ve talked of COVID as the culprit, and it’s true. This virus, and our response, has done damage far beyond the halls of hospitals, some of which we can’t measure still.
It’s a rather discouraging way to ring in a New Year, isn’t it? We placed so much hope on surviving the last one that we can’t imagine this one being any worse.
And that’s because each of us knows this year does not have to be worse. It will not be worse, and that’s because, as the ever-generic human race, we are anything but generic. We have a collective spirit, seated deep in optimism and faith, that no matter what we grieve today, tomorrow will be better.
If we’re to have resolutions for this New Year, let’s entrench them deeply into that optimism and faith. Let’s steel them with a heightened spirit of fortitude. How? I have some thoughts.
Politicians in their place
No matter what TV and social feeds tell you, the men and women we elect to the tentacles of government are no different from you and me. They are not celebrities. They are not our idols. They are not in control of our attitudes, our accomplishments.
More important, they are not teams to be cheered, allegiances to displace common sense.
Elected officials are to be servants, held accountable and held equal. Somewhere along the way, no doubt the consequence of media adoration, we elevated these folks to something greater than their purpose.
As we wander through another year of uncertainty, could we consider putting our political leaders back where they belong? Can we remove our personal identity from political emblems and support sound leadership? Even better, can we eliminate them from half our conversations?
Check your children
Somehow, in some poor way, we’ve roped our children into a perilous place. We’ve eliminated activities, curtailed curfews, thrown them in front of devices because we don’t know what else to do.
Sure, we can talk about the impacts of school closures – and many have. We know there are mountains of young minds left behind as they struggle to catch up or log on to a reliable connection.
I am certain our educational institutions will continue to seek better, and one-by-one, we’ll grab hold of the students left behind. I’m not as certain how our children will remember the adults during this time of tumult.
In the coming month – why not today? – let’s remember that our children will forever recall how we faced down a pandemic, how we handled disagreements, how we kept our determination during our greatest trial.
Think back to how the children of the Great Depression or those of the Greatest Generation spoke of their parents. Will ours have the same adoration for our ability to survive the day? Let’s make sure they do.
Be gracefully convicted
Over the past year, maybe more than ever before, we saw our friends and neighbors stand up for what they believed – be it through the prism of a pandemic, politics or personal beliefs.
We also saw a nation ripped apart, friends vanquished, relationships ruined, because we replaced wisdom and understanding with our own purview of absoluteness. We erased love and faithfulness from the tablets of our heart.
No matter the flip of a page or the tick of a clock, nothing magical happened when we changed the number of the year. The wonder of the next year, instead, will come from the deep-seated optimism and faith we share, the obligation we have to be the next, great generation.