It can be difficult to avoid cliches when writing about the first of the year. New Year’s resolutions are done to death, and we all know that we never keep them. Even saying that 2020 was a tough year has become cliche. We know it. We all went through it. And I am as guilty as anyone of participating in a new cliche by saying that “the best is yet to come” in order to bolster confidence about 2021.
Let’s face it. The Buddha was correct, pain is inevitable in life. And we find enlightenment only by learning to accept that gracefully. Freedom from suffering comes from correcting our perspective and our intentions.
From a biblical perspective: “Suffering equips us to comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
That’s always been the way of it. In fact, for some people 2020 was a good year. I mean if you manufacture hospital masks it sure was. I’ll bet Purell stock went up. And that was not an attempt at dark humor; it is true. Within every situation there is an opportunity. No one would wish a pandemic and the consequence of death to benefit financially, but the lesson is not delivered by the deadly COVID-19 but from the fact that life, the universe, God’s plan, or however you describe this experience, is unpredictable. Our task is to adjust, adapt, administer and advance.
Reflection on where we’ve been can calibrate today’s perspective. Half a century ago we were in the middle of an unpopular war, inspirational leaders were being assassinated, protestors were clashing violently with police, and as a little boy I wondered if this was the End of Days. Pretty scary thought for a 10-year-old.
My parents were raised in abject poverty during the Great Depression. And that was followed by a world war! Their parents were teenagers during the influenza outbreak that killed (by some estimates) 50 million people worldwide.
Many of our great, great, grandparents saw the United States divided in a Civil War where Americans killed Americans.
Life has always presented grave challenges. Some people don’t recover, through no fault of their own, from disease, war, or other disasters that can fall upon us, but many of us do. And we honor those who could not by rising to the moment to find new opportunities to benefit the present and the future.
God didn’t decree the calendar that changes 2020 into 2021. Neither did nature, or any force in the cosmos; we created it by observing the natural order of things so we could measure time. Time, too, is our construct to comprehend this journey through space. In other words, we adjusted, adapted, administered, and advanced. And in this quest to understand life’s inevitable mysteries, we learn to comfort others and enlighten ourselves.
When given lemons make lemonade? Yeah, yeah, that’s a tired phrase, too, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So, at the risk of sounding cliche again: Happy New Year! The best is yet to come!
Gary Kroeger is a former local business owner and advertising executive in Cedar Falls.