The Top 10 Things I Loved about 2020? The Top 10 Things I Hated might be a more appropriate title. At least that’s what I hear from everyone around me: I’m so done with 2020. Let’s hope 2021 is better!
Happy New Years Everybody! Compared to last year, it’s a different ball game isn’t it? Who would have guessed what 2020 held when we toasted the New Year at midnight on December 31, 2019? You might argue that it’s been the worst of times, especially for those who faced COVID19 personally, like my brother who became gravely ill. Or for those who lost their jobs. Or simply for you and me in our isolation.
In my view the pandemic itself opened the door for some wonderful gifts, not just jokes, but graces.
Here are some of the things we might miss in 2021. Things that have marked 2020 as unique.
1. The Joy of Giving
Early in the pandemic, our church became aware that our local Hispanic brothers and sisters were suffering more illness and financial need than we were in our part of town. One of our pastors (the one I know and love best) initiated a call to the church. Who is willing to purchase a $150 grocery gift card to help a family in Southwest Tucson? Within an hour our doorbell was ringing. One member of the congregation after another appeared and handed us a Safeway gift card. We could see the smile in their eyes. And the spring in their step as they turned to leave. Of all the Top 10 Things I Loved about 2020, this has to come first.
2. The Limits of Traveling
Were you one of the many who had to cancel travel plans once the pandemic descended? We were, too. The trip to Memphis to see my 91 year old mother. The visit from our son’s family whom we haven’t seen in over a year. The losses stung and saddened us. But then we started making the most of those limits. Hiking became our traveling mode. It got us out of the house and into the fresh air. Not only that, it brought us into the community of face mask wearing hikers, who politely stepped aside to let us pass or moved on quickly after we had extended the same courtesy. The limits expanded our awareness of our own home town.
3. The Grocery Delivery Service
We had returned to Tucson on March 14 from a ministry trip to Serbia. Not only were we jet-lagged, but our cupboards were bare. Or they would have been, if a friend had not emailed us for a list of necessities. Then other members of our small group began offering to pick up food for us during our extended quarantine. We never once had to ask. The offers came quickly, willingly, cheerfully. No need to use Amazon’s delivery service when the body of Christ is acting as your hands and feet!
4. The Neighborliness of Reading Together
Around this time our neighborhood Book Club was regrouping. How could we continue to gather and discuss the month’s book in view of the quarantine and distancing? We decided to meet outside at a small, well lit park. That month’s leader came equipped with blankets, chairs, and a basket of goodies to munch on. It felt so good–so normal to be together, eating and discussing and laughing. Something we had taken for granted became a gift.
5. The Silliness of Video Preschool
Our youngest reached out to us for help. She and her husband were both trying to work from home, but their daughter, who was three, naturally made that harder. Enter Noni and Papa, an assortment of puppets, stuffed animals, and books, and a growing mastery of Zoom. We donned hats and costumes, sang silly songs, read Peter Rabbit while our stuffed Peter acted out every scene. After we doctored him with toy stethoscope (too many of Mr. McGregor’s cabbages), we watched side-by-side videos together of his further adventures. These were memories we wouldn’t have made in more normal circumstances.
6. The Kapow of Superhero Comics to the Rescue!
Our son’s family needed some support, too. However, their two boys weren’t fans of Beatrix Potter; they wanted to read Pokemon Comic Books! We could download these, but they presented a few difficulties. Of Japanese origin, the pages turned from right to left and we had to read the comic panels from right to left. Sometimes we got confused. Also coming up with voices for the characters was tricky, not to mention that most of the dialogue was single words: Wham! Pow! Kaboom! But once we found a series that included the Star Trek characters, we rocked it.
7. The Courage of Front line Healthcare Heroes
Another gift to us during the pandemic were the heroes who manned the front line defense. First, the doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, nurses aides, dieticians, phlebotomists, and housekeeping who were vigilant in their care of patients, even while carefully maintaining their own health. Our son has been on the front lines, one of our daughters, too. Their battles were fought not just in the hospitals, but on social media as they fought against misinformation, bringing careful science to bear on many of the early myths that had gone viral. I thank God for their behind the scenes faithfulness and public courage.
8. The Unifying Privilege of Prayer
Meanwhile, back in our local church, we found some disagreement on the seriousness of the virus and the necessity of precautions. Our pastors worked out a compromise, but it was in the prayer gatherings that we found unity. The pastoral prayer on Sunday mornings brought us together before the Living God, and opened our hearts to the needs around us. Weekly prayer times continued on Zoom and were well attended. It felt like a privilege to gather, even remotely, to pray for the needs of the congregation and the progress of the gospel.
9. The Astonishing Relevance of Scripture
Did the pastors change course and focus their preaching entirely on our new circumstances? They didn’t have to. Our series on Isaiah showed that Scripture is unbelievably applicable to our lives today. Plagues call us to repentance. Promises of a Deliverer bring us hope. The politics of their times were just as messy as our own. Kings postured like some politicians I know, and didn’t listen to the voice of wisdom. Democrats and Republicans were both brought before the True King. Despite our differences we worshiped together.
10. The Unchanging Testimony of the Mountains
Finally, we come to the last of the Top 10 things I Loved in 2020. My mountains.
When we moved back to Tucson in 2016, I told my husband, “I want to live close to my mountains.” The Santa Catalina mountains form the northern border of the city, and we see them out of our back windows. They fill our view from left to right, and are dwarfed only by the magnificent spread of blue sky or the multicolored display of sunset across high altitude, cirrus clouds. Yet their magnificence isn’t only a picture, it’s a pointer. The One who establishes the mountains is our keeper. They belong to him, and so do we.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also….
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Psalm 95:4, 6-7a
Those are the top 10 things I loved about 2020, gifts from God in the midst of our troubles. What about you?
I’d love to hear your top 10 or 5 or 3, so we can rejoice together as we head into 2021.