It’s been a tough year.
The list of grievances against 2016 continues to grow: the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando; black men killed by police officers across the country; police officers made targets in Dallas and elsewhere; terrorist acts in Nice, Normandy, Brussels, Munich, Milan, Istanbul, Cairo, and many other places too numerous to list; violent clashes in Aleppo, Syria; the ugliness of the American political process and the surprise election result; the deaths of so many talented artists including, most recently, Carrie Fisher; and on, and on. Lest I forget, 14 people died and thousands of structures were destroyed in the Gatlinburg wildfires. Of course, as individuals we faced our own losses and challenges.
It’s easy to say “2016 sucks” and “I can’t wait for this year to be over.” It’s also understandable. I expect we would all like to put something that happened during the past 12 months behind us and move forward.
But turning the page on the calendar doesn’t guarantee that the bad stuff and the ugliness of life is going to end. While January 1 holds great promise, we are setting ourselves up for hopelessness when something bad happens in the opening days of the year. And something bad is going to happen. Let’s be real.
Instead of waiting for the year to change, we can change how we look at the world. Three thoughts here: be grateful, help and pray.
Yes, it completely sucks that a seemingly large number of people who made the 80s the most awesome decade ever have died this year. I am so grateful for what they meant to me. George Michael, for example, was part of “Do They Know it’s Christmas,” a song created in 1984 to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, which led to Band Aid (an amazing concert on two continents), which led to “We Are the World,” which grew into Hands Across America — all of which were iconic moments in the mid-80s. I’m grateful I got to enjoy the songs, witness the concert on TV and travel to the middle of nowhere Illinois to link hands with people I didn’t know to be part of these cultural touchstones and help feed people.
The outpouring of support locally and across the country following the Gatlinburg wildfires has been breathtaking. People have really come through with everything from needed supplies to cash to cars and homes for the people displaced by the disaster. Volunteers are and will be needed for months to come to organize donations, sift through the rubble and so much more.
Likewise, it has been heartening to see people come together and learn about other cultures and support people who are different from each other in the weeks since the election. As we prepare to witness the peaceful transfer of power in Washington, D.C., next month, we need to continue to support each other and to listen. Listening is hard in our current culture. We tend to want to be right instead of kind, to belittle instead of lift up. No matter which side we’re on, we could all do a better job of treating each other with respect. Our leaders in Washington may not be able to do that, but we certainly can.
As is the case with most tragic events, we want to “do” something. Doing is not always practical, though. The lovely Sarah and I wanted to fly to Aleppo to rescue Omran, the little boy whose photo touched hearts around the world. There he was, literally shell-shocked after his home had been bombed out, sitting in an ambulance alone, wiping his face, looking wide-eyed and terrified. We couldn’t afford two tickets to Aleppo, never mind that Syria is in the midst of a civil war and, oh yeah, Omran had living parents. We couldn’t help him directly, but we do pray for him. I pray that he was safely evacuated from the city, and that he gets to grow up. That’s tough to do in a war zone.
There is so much to pray about, including all of the situations I listed at the top of this post. And, of course, we can and should pray for each other, especially as the New Year begins. May it be a good year for all of us.