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Looking ahead to ‘simple times together’ in 2021

As this year draws to a close, I suppose many of us are reflecting on 2020 and what it has meant in each of our lives.
The year, in the simplest of terms, has been a tremendous challenge.
For far too many, it has been a year of suffering and isolation. Of loss and of grief. We’ve prayed many prayers for those who have become ill to recover, and thankfully, many have. But we’ve also had to say goodbye to so many loved ones — friends and family — who we will dearly miss. I don’t think I know of anyone whose life hasn’t been touched in some way by this pandemic.
On top of all of the health issues, there has been so much anger and conflict. There has been division and strife.
But during this time of upheaval, uncertainty, mask wearing, and social distancing, there have been moments of light.
I’ve seen some real honesty, kindness and even optimism — often coming from unexpected places.
A few months ago, I was standing in line at Target. It was the day before Johnson City schools were to start and things were very busy. Everyone I saw was masked up and giving each other their full six feet and more. You could feel the nervousness in the crowded store.
As I waited, I noticed a tall young man with a little boy standing behind me, arms full of school gear. I spoke to the man, commenting on how busy the store was.
“Yes,” he said. “Everyone is here getting their school supplies. The kids are going back to school tomorrow.”
“This has really been something,” he added. “This year is certainly — different.”
The man draped his arm around his young son beside him and as he pulled him closer, his eyes smiled above his mask.
“You know, though, if we can learn anything from this year it will be to be flexible,” he said, nodding toward his child. “We have learned that everything doesn’t always happen the way you want it to or the way it always has. We absolutely can’t have our way all the time and we must adapt. If we can all learn from this, then it will be o.k.”
His words lifted me, and gave me encouragement — something we all have needed during this year filled with worry — and I have carried his words with me since that day.
But the words that I know I will carry in my heart forever came from a little seven-year-old girl I have the joy of calling “granddaughter.”
Kids certainly have a way of looking at things in such an innocent truthful way. They are able to see the good stuff no matter how awful it looks to us as adults; they just seem to find the joy and the hidden gifts in everything.
I’ll admit it. I cried as I read the email my daughter sent me, a recap of a random conversation she had just had with her little girl. Here are her words:
“Jovie gave me some real perspective tonight. She said she didn’t want 2020 to end. I asked her why.
“She said, ‘We’ve gotten to play a lot this year and spend more time at home. You haven’t had to go to any business meetings and you got to do scavenger hunts and do more fun stuff with us.
‘We learned how to make biscuits and Lindy (her sister) and I grew a garden. I don’t want that to end.’
“Total perspective. It made me cry. I think about this year bringing me to my knees constantly, and my child has considered it a fun, enjoyable year that she doesn’t want to end. She’s cherishing the simple times together. It was quite amazing.”
What a blessing to hear the heart of a child and to learn from her wisdom!
As this year draws to a close and we look forward to a new one, it is my hope that we can all cherish the simple times, our time with those who are dear to us, never taking for granted a single hour or a single day that we are able to be together.
Let this be the year that we are kinder and more patient with one another, offering help and support whenever possible.
And finally, when we are at last able to remove our masks, let this be the year that we freely give a gift to each other every chance we get — a smile.
May 2021 bring you and yours peace, joy and love throughout the year.