I grew up hearing the common proverb, “Hindsight is 20/20.” I never imagined anxiously looking forward to flipping that proverb to fit our current circumstances: “2020 is Finally Hindsight!” Thank Goodness! We are all more than ready to put 2020 in the rear view mirror. But, not so fast. Maybe, just maybe, these two proverbs have something important in common. In hindsight, was 2020 more than just a brutal obstacle course to survive? What important lessons have we collectively learned thanks to the year that was?
Unlike most years’ celebrations, this New Year’s reflections are not filled so much with the traditional fond thoughts of the past year but rather a unanimous sigh of relief that 2020 is finally in the history books. Perfectly understandable, 2020 has been by far the most challenging year of our generation. Since the March 5 EF-4 tornado that struck Putnam County, killing 18 of our family and friends, we have suffered a global COVID-19 pandemic killing over 300,000 in this country alone, significant financial losses due to the pandemic, a summer of civil unrest and rioting in major cities across the country, educational disruptions with online fatigue, wildfires out west, hurricanes in the south, a turbulent national election, and a bombing in a place too close to home. The list seems endless for 2020.
So what have we learned from 2020 to help make 2021 better? First and foremost, we have hopefully all learned once again to take nothing for granted. Every life is a precious and all too often fragile gift, and we have lost far too many this year. Cherish every God-given moment.
This past year also gave us the opportunity to witness the infinite depth and power of the human spirit. We saw neighbor helping neighbor overcome unthinkable loss. We saw overwhelming outpouring of selfless support for strangers, again and again and again. Despite the headlines we typically digest from the relentless 24/7 news cycles, we have witnessed how inherently good people really are.
Lastly, we have been reminded that we can accomplish amazing things and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles when necessary. Prior to 2020, no one except the most optimistic visionary would have believed we could produce a safe and effective vaccine for any virus within nine months. Yet here we are with multiple proven vaccines now available! And here on our beloved campus, we conquered so many challenges. The faculty and support staff fully converted every traditional in person class to online in just two weeks last March. That seemed equally impossible, but we did it nonetheless. Over and over again, we rise to the occasion and do the impossible because that’s what we do and that’s what we are capable of.
I am certain that over time there will be many more lessons to learn from 2020. For all of us who have lost loved ones this year, please accept our heartfelt sympathies. I pray that 2021 brings us all a stronger sense of purpose and hope for the future, and that the hard earned lessons of 2020 will not be forgotten but make us a better, kinder, and more productive people.