I write these annual re-cap posts every year, but never before has the gap between expectations for a year, and the reality I have to write about been so drastic. This past year, we’d planned a big trip west for the summer, visiting friends in Seattle, taking a ferry trip to Alaska, and stopping by to visit family and an old friend on the way back. None of that happened for reasons that are both obvious and less than. Forming a plan to get some portion of our family just across the nearest border proved to be enough of a challenge, once the pandemic hit.
The year started fairly normally, with a couple nice highlights. Since Christmas 2019 was spent in Grand Cayman, we connected with Ontario family at Niagara Falls in February. We hosted our church youth group for the Super Bowl. And I started a trip to LA for a work event. When we looked back at the pictures of these gatherings, Eli remarked: “its strange to see us with other people and no one is wearing masks.”
It was on that trip to LA that we learned how much things would change. Of course there were inklings of it — I remember seeing people in masks at the airport, thinking they were over-reacting. It was on a stop-over in Minneapolis that I got the call: event canceled due to pandemic. I had no choice but to complete the trip to LA and try to schedule an earlier flight back — home and into quarantine. Like for most others, March through May were tough months: cancelled birthday parties, suddenly home schooling, trying to help the kids understand what was happening. As summer crept closer, and cases started dropping, we witnessed an even more upsetting change in our American life. Trump signs and flags appeared, while mostly white folks began complaining about their rights — apparently oblivious to the fact that a significant portion of America with an actual legitimate complaint was pleading for justice. The battles lines for the looming election were drawn: haircuts and backyard parties are part of the American dream, due process for minorities, and scientific decision-making are not.
Never before have we been so ashamed of where we live, or some of the people we considered close. We were horrified — shocked and in disbelief. We wanted to be a part of reasoned discussion, we wanted to insist on rationality. We went to a protest (before most of them turned unreasonable) and I blogged desperately and at length, trying to explain, trying to reason, admonishing the increasingly insane things that our neighbors, and even family members were saying online. But Trump kept on tweeting, and people kept on trying to explain, defend or even advocate conspiracy theories, unhinged medical recommendations, and a bizarre persecution complex emanating from the most undeserving, self-entitled Republican leader — and base — that I have ever witnessed. If COVID-19 wasn’t reason enough to withdraw, American politics sealed that deal. Our circle of people we wanted to be with in 2020 shrank dramatically.
Fortunately, some wonderful people and wonderful experiences were left:
We tapped our neighbor’s maple trees, and made maple syrup (and were reminded that there are still some reasonable and loving Conservatives left in this two-party nightmare.)
We learned how to throw a Zoom birthday party, met new people virtually, and connected with some far-away friends we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Our annual Family Camp tradition was cancelled, so in its stead, we took over an entire campground with two other families, and enjoyed a socially isolated weekend fishing, boating and singing songs about Jesus around the outdoor cookout spot.
Instead of long-distance trips, we raised chickens at home, worked on some fun projects, and explored some of God’s beautiful creation right here in Ohio — and did manage to get most of the family back to Ontario for quarantine and a visit eventually.
We even got to be a special part of a beautiful wedding, capping off a year that maybe wasn’t great, but definitely had some redeeming moments.
And I guess that’s a fairly good description of humanity right now. It is obvious to anyone who survived 2020 that we are a fallen people — we are not who God meant for us to be, and we cannot redeem ourselves; not through politics, not through discourse, and not through societal changes. We will always fall short. But every once in awhile, you catch a glimpse of something pretty great, and its a reminder that we were made in His image: a glorious, creative, thoughtful and beautiful image. And that some day, we will be what He intended…
- Did you know we’ve landed on a moving asteroid — twice?! Japan’s 2019 lander came home with samples in 2020, and this year, NASA’s own probe buzzed the asteroid and scooped up rocks to bring back home to us. That’s freaking Star Trek stuff right there.
- After decades of puzzling over how to leverage mRNA, at least three different teams of scientists shattered all previous records for vaccine development, and put mRNA to use in novel Covid-19 vaccines — in less than 8 months.
- As a result of the lock downs, our environment — and our understanding of it — flourished in ways not seen during my lifetime. We learned new things about whales, and birds and oceans that we just couldn’t have when we didn’t know how to slow down. In fact, a lot of great questions were raised about how we travel and work and interact online and treat each other in the real world — all things we might not have gotten around to if it weren’t for the “Great Pause.”
No, 2020 wasn’t a great year — not anywhere on the planet, and especially not in America. But, we’re still all God’s kids, and we’re still growing up. We’re not ever going to get it right until He comes back, but that doesn’t mean we’ve quit trying. Only He knows what 2021 holds, but we got through 2020, and with His help, maybe we can all do a little better this year.