Reflections

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:24

The old saying is that Hindsight is 2020 (watch the video).  That may be more accurate this year than any other. Normally, we celebrate the coming New Year. Instead, many will celebrate the end of 2020.  

Each day I get up in the morning and go into the bathroom.  I am greeted with a face in the mirror.  The mirror doesn’t lie.  I usually look sleepy and in need of a shave. But it is the face of today.  I remind myself that today is yesterday’s tomorrow.  I can’t change yesterday, and tomorrow has yet to come, but I can work on today.

Another mirror is your car’s rear view mirror. It reflects what is behind you, not what is in front of you.  It is an important tool for a driver because keeping an eye on what is behind you helps you anticipate problems.  So, what does 2020 look like in our rear-view mirror?

This past year is one for the books. But according to history, it was not the worst. That distinction goes to the year 536 AD when a mysterious fog covered much of Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.  A fog blocked the sun during the day for 18 months. It was a literal “Dark Age.”

The cause?   A huge volcanic eruption in Iceland which was sufficient to cause climate change for years. Temperatures, on average, dropped 35 to 37 degrees, causing crop failure in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia and China. Famine ensued leading to the Bubonic plague that wiped out 25 to 50% of the Roman Empire’s population.

That would be, in my estimation, a bad year. By comparison, how does 2020 stack up? 

For many, it was a difficult year which started well, but took a quick turn when COVID-19 showed up. We learned terms like “flatten the curve”, “lockdowns”, “quarantining”, “Zoom” and “social distancing”.  School closures became the norm, stunting the academic growth of our next generation with long term consequences. 

We learned a geography lesson.  No one had heard of Wuhon before, but now most recognize it as a large city of 11 million people in Central China and the epicenter of a pandemic.

Life was disrupted to a scale not seen before in modern history. Despite extensive research and national planning on coping with a pandemic, the world’s health systems were taxed, sometimes beyond capacity. We will learn from those mistakes, but they cost lives.

Economies shut down; businesses closed – particularly those that were deemed “non-essential”, often an arbitrary political decision. The economic toll will be felt for years. In America, most businesses that were damaged were small businesses – restaurants and Mom and Pop businesses which cannot operate “virtually”.  

The small entrepreneur got crushed by the pandemic, and sadly, this will have a larger impact on those in the lower economic strata of our culture. The most vulnerable are the ones that will suffer the most. 

Vacations and family get togethers were cancelled or postponed. Plans for the year were abruptly altered.  Some things will never be the same again. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so missing a family reunion impacts my family as he continues to decline.

For those lucky enough to have a job which can be done remotely, “going to work” took on a new meaning. Bricks and mortar offices in large cities remain empty today, which does not bode well because I doubt that they will return to normal capacity any time soon. 

Companies will retool their office needs downward resulting in a huge dislocation from city centers. Already, cities like New York are seeing an exodus of population. Those leaving are often a large part of the tax base, and they will not be replaced any time soon meaning that the quality of life in those cities will suffer.  

We are not sure when there will be a return to “normalcy”, whatever that looks like. How do you face an uncertain future, even as a believer?  For the Christian, it is simple. For a non-believer, not so much.

The answer is contained in a poem from my son-in-law’s favorite author and poet, Wendell Berry, titled “The Peace of Wild Things”:

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be.

I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.  For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

This poem is a reminder that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When we feel afraid or in despair, we can turn to Him in simple places like nature because he is Immanuel or God with us.  

I wish each of you blessings in the New Year.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You have the ability to shape your mentee’s perspective on life. It is an incredible opportunity. Don’t miss it.

FURTHER READING:  Hindsight is 2020 – Video by Tom Foolery

 The Worst Year in History:  Is 2020 a Contender?  Discover 

Why 536 Was The Worst Year to Be Alive  AAAS Science

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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