As the curtain comes down on a tumultuous 2020, many have taken to social media to bid the year adieu or, perhaps, an emphatic “good riddance.” The mood was captured in a recent online meme with the caption, “Does anyone else feel troubled by the fact that the name of the next year is literally ‘2020 won’?”
To be clear, the year 2020 didn’t win. Events of the year may have humbled citizens, and it revealed some of the worst of humanity: flaws in law enforcement, weakness in the criminal justice system and some sinkholes in civil society. But the year also reminded us that the bright beacons of compassion, service, innovation and commitment to the common good are lights that are most powerful in the darkest of times.
One stirring example was the volunteer effort to make 5 million masks for front-line health care works. Project Protect was a collaborative effort between Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Latter-day Saint Charities, Utah nonprofits and volunteer from across the state of Utah who sewed personal protective equipment for front-line caregivers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project began when an incredible 10,000 volunteers picked up supplies, kits and instructions to sew 100 masks each. Five days later, 1 million masks were completed. The process continued for weeks and ultimately nearly 6 million masks were made.
The politician Jack Kemp said it this way, “The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.”
The year 2020 also saw an outpouring of that kind of influential compassion. Balcony concerts for neighborhoods. Nightly cheering for health care workers. Drive-by birthdays for the elderly. Drive-in school graduations.
The civil unrest of the year was troubling, but it did not win. Some dark nights of protest, and even riots, gave way to light. The season of strife served as a spark of light for new conversations, listening, understanding and cooperation. The year became an opportunity to link arms in rooting out racism and marching toward a better day for all.
The isolation and disruption put a spotlight on mental health for young and old. It also illuminated the need for many to reevaluate priorities and what is most essential to happiness and emotional well-being.
It also ignited American ingenuity and innovation. Warp-speed science issued approved vaccines in record time, and new delivery options for goods and services changed the economy.
Most crushing was the loss of life. Even still, hope remained, and resilient individuals and families paid tribute to those they loved and lost in inspiring ways. It is true that “Weeping may prevail for a dark night, but joy cometh in the light of morning.”
Pew Research Center recently noted that while 77% of U.S. adults said 2020 was worse than 2019, nearly 60% expect 2021 to be an improvement on this year.
Those are important numbers. They demonstrate the resilience and optimism the new year brings. With the light of people, hope of innovation and continuation of compassion, the year 2021 is where people will once again win.
The best time to think about the end is at the beginning. Now is the perfect time to think how individuals, organizations and governments want Dec. 31, 2021, to be.
This year proved that humanity’s resilience, ingenuity and compassion will win in the end, which creates a promising new beginning.