Friday, January 1, 2021

A Last Look at 2020

I did not stay up to make sure the year ended, to toast to a new year.  I usually don't stay up until midnight, not on New Year's Eve, not on any other day.  I do remember a New Year's Eve here or there where we wanted to stay up to make say "Good Riddance!" to the past year.  Our worst year in terms of personal difficulties was 2005, which began with my mother-in-law in the hospital recovering from the hip replacement which set her on a road to death by medical-industrial complex in April; we finished that year with the worst hurricane season we've ever personally experienced, although 2017 comes close.

If we were superstitious people, we'd be spooked by any year divisible by 5, especially years that end in 5, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that 2020 was a doozy.

I know that most of us looking back over 2020 will focus on the pandemic as the big news of the year, the one with long lasting ramifications.  But I do wonder if we will see stories that turn out to be more major, once we have some distance from them.  After all, the pandemic will fade, with luck and these new vaccines.  

I look back on this year and see a planet saying, "Time's up."  Although we didn't have much storm damage in south Florida this year, it was a hurricane season that broke all sorts of records.  I see category 4 storms in November to be a particularly ominous sign.

And it wasn't just hurricane season--we've had a year of ferocious fires across the globe.  We've had a year of record breaking warmth at the poles.  There are probably other climate stories that floated right by me, but will loom large in later years as we look back.

And so here we sit, at the edge of the continent, hospice chaplains to a house with a quiet determination to sink into the sea.  This past year provoked many conversations about moving--the national conversation focused on people moving to get out of cities and/or to be closer to family members.  Many of my friends in South Florida saw house prices rising along with sea levels and wondered if now might be the time to sell.

I am wondering if we will look back and see 2020 as a time of migration similar to the Great Migration of the 20th century, when so many black people left the rural south for northern cities.  I also see this as a year that could begin a mass migration in terms of jobs.  If one had been contemplating a career in health care, would this past year change one's thinking?  I could see asking similar questions about a number of career fields.

And I see a whole slew of less profound work questions.  Will we travel for business?  Will we return to offices?  How will we take care of children as we move into this new time?

When I look back on this year, I have some things I want to remember:

--I was part of a school that was able to pivot and continue delivering a quality education.  We were able to keep shepherding our students towards their goals.  That's no small thing in any year, but in 2020, it's a huge thing.

--Similarly, my church was able to pivot.  We'd already been doing some experiments with streaming our worship service, so our learning curve was not as steep as it might have been.  Early on in the pandemic, I started a daily morning watch which I broadcast on our Facebook page.  I've really enjoyed leading that, and one of my favorite comments of the year was when one of my faithful viewers said that morning watch was as rewarding as church.

--As part of morning watch, I've been sketching 5-7 minutes every morning.  I am amazed with what I can accomplish with a 5 minute daily practice.

--I will look back and think of this year as one where I was not writing, but that's not true.  I wrote a blog post or two almost every day.  I filled up two legal pads with poem drafts, and some of them were good.  I wrote a bit of fiction.  I wrote all sorts of stuff for work, but that's rarely the writing that feeds my soul. I also continued sending work out for possible publication.  I don't have the kind of success to report that I wish I did, but it's not for lack of trying.

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