New Year, New Beginnings
December 16, 2020 | View PDF
Yikes, what a year we all saw in 2020. To say this past year proved itself a most unusual year qualifies as an understatement, as nearly everyone I know can’t wait to look at 2020 from his or her rear-view mirror. 2020 provided us with situations and experiences we’ve only read about in books. Experts have warned for years that the world was and is ripe for pandemics, but we humans always feel these events will happen in another time and place. Scientists have also cautioned that we will endure more frequent hurricanes and turbulent weather caused by the changing climate, but again we expect such misfortunes to strike elsewhere. As well, our country in political turmoil hasn’t helped our outlook, attitude, or patience.
Wild weather, wild politics, and a virus wildly out of control shaped and directed most of our energy and thoughts this past year. Reflecting back, we did see a lot of oddity, witness a plethora of outlandish behavior, and hear an overabundance of grim news. We have had to adapt, make concessions, and learn to live a happy but responsible life in the process.
On the flip side, these unsettling times have helped make us more resilient. Certainly, we’ve dealt with a lot of change and situations, but at least in my case, these changing times have provided a lot of positive outcomes and provided the vehicle for personal change in direction this past year.
So what did 2020 teach me, and what lessons can I take with me into 2021? First, I know I must practice more tolerance and patience with those who do not have the same views that I do. This turbulent political year polarized the nation unnecessarily, which made me also realize our democracy is fragile, that a handful of people can do a lot of damage to the nation in a very short time, so we need to do our utmost to preserve and protect what we have. Therefore, I have tried to understand the views of those who do not agree with me, remember that these people love this country as much as I do, and to use that fact as a starting point in discussions. We just need to relearn how to communicate without anger, have respect for opposing viewpoints, and work to find common ground so we can move forward as a nation. We can rebuild if we apply courtesy, respect, and compromise in our dealings with others.
I hope that I personally have become more considerate and gracious towards others. I have seen how some of our leaders have no concept of these words, behave badly, and run roughshod over others. This sets a very bad example for our citizens. The nation as a whole needs to practice both courtesy and respect in every way, every day. Simple things, such as wearing a mask when required or saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ on a regular basis would be a start in the right direction. It’s amazing the doors a ‘please’ can open, or how much a simple ‘thank you’ can do for someone’s morale or self-esteem. I try to use both ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ multiple times each day.
Consideration also means putting away that cell phone and paying attention to people trying to talk with you. In fact, at this point, social media should take a year’s hiatus and allow us to actually reconnect with others, instead of interacting with a faceless piece of technology that can’t replace face-to-face conversation. It is far too easy to behave rudely and discourteously via social media than it is when speaking face-to-face.
The year has also offered me the opportunity to read more, to acquire new knowledge, and learn new skills such as how to participate in remote meetings, or gather information about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and noticing the parallels in human behavior between the two pandemics. Incidentally, in 1918 people whined and complained about wearing masks just like they do now, and they blamed the pandemic on ‘foreigners’. We haven’t learned much in a hundred years.
This past year I have continued to enjoy the outdoors in its entire splendor, whether walking, hiking, biking, gardening, or sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade watching the birds. I don’t know who said it, but I did see a poster that read “Nature. Cheaper than Therapy.” I agree. Nothing clears the mind of discord, angry thoughts, or discouragement like a trek with one’s dog or a leisurely bike ride in solitude. Working in the garden, watching plants grow, appreciating the baby birds in our birdhouses, seeing the hawks and eagles soar overhead, noticing the chipmunks venture out of the woodpile, hearing the yap of a fox, all this and more keep one in tune with one’s world.
My neighbor and I also became more interested in plant identification this past summer. We found plants on our properties that made us smile, we suspect we have found a patch of wild huckleberries, and we intend to continue our self-education in plant species in 2021.
A good result of the COVID-19 virus has made me more cognizant of cleanliness. I consider myself a clean person, but health experts’ advice has prompted me to wash my hands more often, wipe down my countertops on a regular basis, and generally remind myself of that old adage ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness.’ I understand the idea behind that axiom.
Has 2020 been one of my better years? No, but it also was not a total disaster. I’m healthy, my loved ones have remained healthy, we as a nation are blessed because we have food to eat, shelter from the storms, and friends and neighbors to rely on. I found a lot of pleasure in many aspects of this past year, and found delight in small activities.
I wish you all a happy, safe, and healthy 2021. I wish a healing for the nation and a desire for our citizens and politicians to come together, learn from one another, compromise, and to preserve and protect our cherished democracy.