by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
We are within hours of what could be the end of the most devastating year of the 21st century. Interestingly these may be the same thoughts of those who passed through the 1918 Spanish Influenza or the black plague of the 14th century as the new year approached. With twenty-twenty hind-site, we know the plague was followed by many events that devastated families, cities, nations, and the world. These events also reshaped countries, and society opening the door to insight, invention, art, and shaping our current world. Through it all, humanity has kept striving forward, washing the grit from faces and unpacking the boxes of hope, goals, and dreams.
Humans seem to have a spark that may be dimmed at times but never wholly extinguished; that spark is hope, and it fuels the placing of one foot in front of the other, moving forward step by step even when exhausted. On October 9, 1854, Elizabeth Austin wrote in her journal, “Today I took things out of the wagon….” Tired, dusty, and dirty from almost a year of traveling the Oregon Trail and countless disappointments and losses, the Austin family had reached their destination in western Washington. Taking their few belongings from the wagon and washing their grimy clothes marked the end of a difficult journey, yet there was more to be endured. This same sentence was repeated in almost every journal of the time, the relief palpable that the journey was at long last over, that some sense of normalcy could be established and hope fanned the flame brighter.
As 2020 comes to a close, we to feel exhausted, grimy, and relieved the passage of the COVID year has reached its end. Like those who have come before us, we light the fire of celebration, remember those who have been lost, and put on our boots to give 2020 a good kick in the ass out the door.
When the fire of celebration dies down and the first glimmer of the new year dawns, we will once more look about us and begin the job of clean up and building the future. The challenges of 2020 will not be gone. There will still be hardships, struggle, and hard work, just like that faced by the pioneers of 1854. That first year in the west was scarcely any different from the days on the trail; meals were often cooked outdoors with limited supplies, shelter from the elements nominal at best, as barns and cabins were built, land cleared, gardens and fruit trees planted. Each passing day and task accomplished added to a sense of accomplishment and permanency. The planting of trees means anticipation of years to come. Security, abundance, growth, and prosperity …. These words are just as important to us today. This past year has reminded many of how to …. be alone with one’s thoughts, make bread, cook from recipes instead of boxes, self motivate, re-join with family, communicate, connect with nature, and evaluate what is essential.
With each passing day into the new year of 2021, we will move closer to further goals that were dreams before, accept those things we have no control over, and work for those we do. Now we may be more aware of gratitude. We have developed an appreciation for the simple and extraordinary in our lives that had been overlooked before. The cup of tea, a bowl of homemade soup, smell of fresh bread, the ability to work from home, and so much more give us a moment of pause and thanksgiving. There are many lessons of 2020 that will make us stronger in the end, more resilient, and determined too. These relearned tools will be vital in the years ahead, and they will be the tools that help us build and discover the next century.
“And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.” ~ Robert Burns 1759-1796
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