While searching for inspiration for an end-of-the-year commentary, I came across a piece by humorist Dave Barry. He wrote:
“We’re trying to think of something nice to say about 2020. Okay, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know. That’s pretty much it.”
It is therapeutic to try to close the year with a laugh, otherwise we might just break into tears. Instead of giving a heartfelt “farewell” to 2020, we will slam the door at midnight December 31 with a scowling “good riddance!”
But moving on from the awful year is not that easy. Many of the problems of 2020 do not follow the calendar.
The pandemic is still with us, and getting worse in many parts of the country, including West Virginia. The millions of Americans who believe their candidate was robbed will not suddenly change their minds on January 20.
We do not yet have a full accounting of the economic damage from the pandemic. Who knows how many businesses that closed because of the virus will never reopen? Racial tensions that boiled up in 2020 are still simmering.
I could go on, but you were there, so you know. However, there is a reason why we put so much emphasis on the beginning of the new year. It is an official fresh start, and who doesn’t want one of those?
I am not talking about resolutions. There is nothing wrong with pledging to exercise more, quit smoking or be nicer to people. But the start of 2021 is about something bigger. It is the beginning of what can be the long arc of change.
What exactly that change will be I cannot predict, but what we do know about the year ahead is that we do not want it to be like the previous one. What that year did give us, however, was adversity, and that is going to turn out in the long run to be a benefit.
Billy Graham said, “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity.” Adversity generates resilience, which leads to confidence, and when you have confidence, opportunity avails itself.
Think of the World War II generation. Tom Brokaw wrote in The Greatest Generation, “They (the returning soldiers) married in record numbers and gave birth to another distractive generation, the Baby Boomers. They stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith.”
They also returned to build the greatest economy the world has ever seen and firmly established the middle class as a lifestyle within reach.
That grew out of those individuals, and this country, surviving adversity and knowing what real sacrifice means.
So maybe our message to 2020 is more like, “Wow, you really delivered some serious body blows, but we’re still standing, moving ahead, and even feeling the wind at our back, confident enough to take on what comes. Even the murder hornets.