#2020Hindsight 2: What We’ve Learned From This Crazy Year

By The Stream Published on December 31, 2020

We’ve been reflecting here at The Stream on what this hard year has taught us. Here are some of our thoughts and learnings. Interestingly, though we didn’t plan it this way, it’s all about family — including a beloved dog.

Al Perrotta

Would it be cliché to say 2020 taught me long-suffering?

Seriously, one positive lesson 2020 taught me is that even in a tragic, troubled, topsy-turvy year, God shows up, steps up, lifts up.

Take Black Friday. Black Friday had no business being a good day for us. Just three days before, our precious dog Dapper had suddenly died, blowing up our Thanksgiving and tearing a huge hole in our hearts. Friday we’d be bringing Dapper to be cremated in Leonardtown, Maryland. Leonardtown to me was “The place halfway between my sisters with the great Mexican restaurant and Patuxent Naval Air Station nearby.”

My best hope for the day was that it wouldn’t be terrible. The nightmare phase would be over and the days of steady sorrow would begin.

We dropped off Dapper’s tiny body in the morning, then decided to find a coffee shop just to decompress. Siri led us a mile or so away and into historic Leonardtown. I’d never been there. After catching our breath with chai latte, we decided, “Well, we’re here. Might as well walk around.”

Leonardtown dates back to the 17th century and was a bustling place in the 19th century. We found ourselves captivated by the historic houses, intrigued by the local lore, and stunned by the town’s connection to musical theater history (“Showboat”). From there, the Shepherd drew us downhill to the waterfront park on Breton Bay, just off the Potomac. There, we laid on the “green pastures” and soaked in the “still waters.

There, “He restoreth my soul.”

We felt such peace and belonging, we found ourselves staying until sunset. It was — when by all rights it should not have been — a great day. As we walked back up the hill with our other tea cup poodle Tassel, with the sun settling over the waters behind us, I felt the Lord say, “This is a glimpse of your next season of life.” Life was going to move on, with peace and beauty and discovery.

Music played throughout the town square. And church bells rang.

What did I learn from 2020? Life will move on in 2021, with peace and beauty and discovery.

Tom Sileo

At this time last year, my expectant wife and I were terrified after our baby received a prenatal diagnosis of Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. Natalie Josie Sileo was born on Feb. 4, 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began to dominate so much of American life.

While there are unique challenges of raising a child with special needs, the tragic events of 2020 taught us to be even more grateful that our little girl is healthy. We’ve also learned that people with Down syndrome are some of the happiest people on the planet.

As Natalie’s bright smile reminds us every day, people with Down syndrome are not a burden on society. They are a blessing from God.

Nancy Flory

2020 has been a hard year by all accounts.

My beautiful cousin Dawna went to be with Jesus after a short bout with cancer. Another cousin passed away earlier this year. He was in his 30s. One cousin had a massive heart attack in his 30s. Thankfully, he’s on the mend. Then Dawna’s sister had a stroke. She was unable to attend her sister’s funeral. Finally, my aunt and uncle have been in the hospital with COVID-19. My uncle is still sedated and is unresponsive at this time.

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Death and illness has ravaged my family. And yet, we know that God is in control of life and death (Psalm 139:16).

2020 has taught me to appreciate each day that I have been given. To love without limits. To tell those around me how much they mean to me.

Until God calls me home, I plan to cherish each moment with those God placed in my life. 2020 has taught me that.

Tom Gilson

My daughter is in the labor and delivery ward as I write this, and my first grandchild is due to arrive right around the time this article will be published. What a hopeful, happy way to end such a hard year!

The world he’ll be born into, though, looks a lot more more risky than it did last year at this time. Less predictable, less orderly, not nearly so much the kind of thing we have control over.

We’ve had an illusion, here in America, that we could do it all. Our nation would stay strong forever. We had our flaws, but we were on the way; we figured we’d keep getting better and better. Science would lead us to conquer nature, and especially to defeat all diseases. Our kids would do better than we did.

That’s not looking so true anymore; we can’t be as confident. So with a new generation coming along in our family, I’m thinking more and more about where my hope and my confidence lie; and not just mine, but my offsprings’, and their offsprings’, too, along with our whole country.

The year has reminded me of my reaction following two major earthquakes, and lots of aftershocks, that hit my home town of Big Bear Lake, California, in 1992. I had to ask myself, “If you can’t trust the ground you walk on, what can you trust?”

The answer is the same as it’s always been: We can trust in the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, the One who protects and redeems all who call on His name. “In this world you will have tribulation,” He said in John 16:33, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” There’s something healthy about being reminded that He alone is our hope: not our nation, not our politicians, not our economy, not science, but the God who loves us.

It’s not just comforting, it’s also true. Hard years can help us see that more clearly than usual; that’s what it’s done for me, anyway. And I have high hopes that my grandson will live a great life in the Lord!

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