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New Years Resolutions

Congratulations.

You’ve successfully navigated 2020, and you’ve made it to New Year’s Eve, eve. My granddaughter dubbed this year “the weird times”, and she was not wrong. But here we are, with 2021 knocking on our door.

I think we would be wise to take a moment and be thankful for 2020. I bet you haven’t heard anyone say that, have you?

This year taught us many lessons. People are always better off when they’ve struggled through tough times. Perspective shifts and small blessings seem bigger; small problems seem smaller. People generally emerge from difficult circumstances as stronger, smarter, more resilient—and thankful for both the passage and the lessons from the journey.

We’ve learned that even though we disagree over how to deal with this Covid—some are religious about wearing masks; some are furious at the prospect of having to do something they see as, as best, not helpful—that we can disagree and still get along.

We’ve learned that our teachers are far more resourceful than we thought. A heavy mantle was thrown over their shoulders with no notice, and they had to find a new way to teach overnight. Some classes were done remotely; some children could not come back to school, so some classes had to be conducted both in-person and remotely. Imagine how tough that is. All of the children had to be dealt with—discipline for a child 25 miles away is challenging—and just how would you give the same test to both groups? Some of those children came from families who were equipped to help them deal with the technology. Some of those children had to teach the technology to their families. And they pulled it off. We owe them a generational debt of thanks.

Social service groups like the Department of Human Resources were hard-hit. They have to go into a lot of homes every month, and every time they did that they were at risk. Every time they had to pick up a child, they had to be prepared in case that child had or had been exposed to Covid. Whether you realize it or not, they have become our fall-back group, the last line of defense for children (and adults) who have no one else.

Even people like your banker and your insurance agent were affected. How do they give good customer service while at the same time remaining safe themselves and keeping their customers safe?

I felt sorry for all of the elected officials. Good gracious this was a mean-spirited political year—both locally and nationally—and I was astonished at how easily candidates threw this topic at one another. No one was patient, no one was tolerant, and the accusations at the national level rose to an appalling furor-level pitch. And all of this over a brand-new bug that no one understood at all. In fact, we are just now beginning to understand it. To everyone that lofted political bombs over this, I have one word for you—shame! In fact, for most politicians and political helpers of 2020—both locally and nationally—you should be ashamed. But you won’t be. Many of you have no sense of the word.

So, where do we go in 2021?

I’ve never been big with the New Year’s resolutions thing. I’ve always thought Jan. 1 is (except for college football) just another day on the calendar, not really worthy of the hubbub surrounding it.

I don’t do those resolutions. But I am this year. This year, I am making two.

This year I am determined to spend less time on computer screens, and more time in actual books. I want to read books that force me to slow down and think. I already spend a lot of time in what is simultaneously the most simple and the most complex book I’ve ever read—the Bible. That won’t change. But I’m going to also read some of the books that we all should read, books that are part and parcel of our national conversation.

I’m starting off with a spectacularly hard one, Dante’s The Divine Comedy. This is the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet’s death. You won’t find a list of all-time great books that doesn’t include this one. And I’ve never read it. It is about 700 pages of translated Italian poetry, and it is a tough, tough read. Hold me to it—I want to finish it by the end of March.

Everyone makes a health resolution. Generally either “I want to get in shape” or “I want to lose weight”, resolutions that are unspecific enough that they can be cast aside as a diaphanous hope as soon as the words escape their lips. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to set a specific goal and give myself a reasonable time to accomplish it. I am going to weigh myself on January 1, and by the last day of March, I am going to lose 10 pounds. What? Not enough for you? Okay then—set a higher goal and show me up. But hold me to my goal—I want to finish this by the end of March, too.

So, out with 2020 and in with 2021.

My prayer for us all is that 2021 finds us closer to our families, better prepared to come what 2021 may bring, and, ultimately, in a better relationship with the one who is able to help us through anything and who, in fact, cherishes the chance to make us better in hard times.

Happy New Year’s, all.

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