Dear Readers: I’ve decided to re-run the column I wrote last year. I find it bittersweet after what 2020 turned out to be.
When I was a kid, we celebrated the new year with dancing and partying. I can’t remember the last time I did that, probably once I was old enough to realize drinking and driving was a stupid idea. And once you realize that, going out on that particular night just doesn’t hold the same allure. So, I’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve for decades, making quiche and shrimp cocktail to celebrate and trying to stay awake long enough to watch the ball drop in Times Square on television.
The best and most important part of the new year has changed for me. Now New Year’s Eve is the time to reflect on the past year, take stock of all the wonderful things that happened, and look forward to what 2020 brings. None of that requires noisemakers and shiny hats, but as I get older, it’s a lot more satisfying to sort of wallow in the sweetness of every year.
My two oldest children (a funny word when they’re 31 and 29) had banner years — one traveling all over with her husband, and the other coming into his own in his career. My youngest goes through his days loving living on the Island and volunteering at Thimble Farm. My husband enjoys his new job here and I love mine. Everyone feels settled and “in the right place.” For 2020, in some ways I’d love more of the same for myself and for my family. Of course for the rest of the world, that peace that alludes us year after year would be nice. I would settle for more love and less hate, more understanding and less conflict, more empathy and less bigotry.
I asked Island clergy about their hopes and dreams for 2020, either for themselves, their faith communities, or the world.
The Rev. Chip Seadale, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown wrote:
“Wow! Talk about a question that would get ANY clergyperson, or person of faith, on a roll!
In the interest of time and space, here goes:
- That everyone remembers their spiritual hunger and finds a place where they can nourish it, in community;
- That everyone recognizes their divine nature and commits to nurture it to grow;
- That everyone works to see everyone else, and their world, as a unified whole, and chooses to participate in creation, avoiding the temptation to divide, separate, and disrespect others;
- That everyone grows tired of our addictions and compulsions, and seeks to find ways to be better stewards of our world, our worldly goods, and our own bodies, physically, mentally, and spiritually;
- That everyone comes to see themselves as wounded healers, broken in some way, but that our vulnerability can be used to bless others by our compassion and concern; and
- That everyone comes to realize we are never separate from the Holy Other, and that it is only by our decision to live in accordance with that simple principle, acting accordingly and responsibly, that we may find peace, justice, and fulfillment.”
Bruce Nevin from the Island’s Quaker community wrote simply: “That in our diverse ways we may each live from the center.”
The Rev. Stephen Harding, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, sent this thoughtful response: “You very kindly wrote to ask what my hopes and dreams for 2020 might be, and I find myself wanting to respond from a sense of time that is non-linear and more open-ended.
The Episcopal Church’s liturgical year began four Sundays before Christmas with the season of Advent, a season of in-between, of waiting, of preparation and throughout, anticipation of the improbability of the miracle of Christ’s birth.
My response and that of others will be published sometime during the Christmas season, a time of joy and wonder at the unlikeliness of God living on Earth as one of us. The restoration of innocence and a new beginning are part of the Christmas Season, which is for 12 days and ends this year on Jan. 5, right before the Feast of the Epiphany, which has a theme of light … and goes until Ash Wednesday and Lent, then Easter, through Pentecost and returns to Advent again.
To respond from this context with hopes and dreams for a calendar year doesn’t feel right, because the finite delineation of time will limit what can be achieved within that time period. Accommodating goals to a one-year period may prevent the imagining and/or achieving the full extent of what is possible.
From a non-linear and more open-ended sense of time, then, here are my dreams and expectations for the coming years: That the dignity of every human being will be respected; that our elected officials will put the greater good of the nation/state/municipality before their own personal interest; that our current level of vitriolic and damaging hyper-partisanship and rhetoric will be replaced by civility and understanding; that while there will be disagreement, everyone will work to advance the common good; that relations between the nations will improve and that trust will be restored; that each person on this earth will do her/his/their part to reduce and repair humanity’s impact on our planet; that we on our Island will work together so that we are prepared as an Island for the effects of the climate crisis; that our Island support our schools fully so that our children are ready and have the foundation to be successful in the world that is emerging.
I finish with a quote from President Kennedy’s inaugural address: ‘All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.’”
I agree with all of the responses, hoping in a way that we can all be our best selves in 2020. No matter how difficult we find it, the time to aim for that goal is definitely now.
Happy New Year; onward to 2021, with hope and grace.