That was the year that was | Mark’s Remarks

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When I look back at this year, I can honestly say it’s been one of the worst.  I won’t begin to list all the reasons, but there are plenty. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.

But then I start thinking of all the blessings as well. My wife and I are in professions that are still necessary and have sustained our family through this pandemic.  Many people can’t say that. We have been able to keep our jobs and receive a paycheck.

We’ve had extra time with our family. We’ve made great memories.  We’ve reconnected with people. There has been extra time to have meaningful conversations and do some long-range thinking and planning. My son got married in the midst of all this, and it actually worked out well. No one got sick.  We’ve safely made trips and safely spent time with friends.

If I really spend time thinking and then actually citing why 2020 has been the pits, I can really only come to one conclusion: it’s been uncomfortable.  I’ve been asked to stretch myself, add stress to my life, and basically live outside of my comfort zone a lot.  

Really? Is that why this year has been so bad?  Yes, that’s all I can come up with.

There have been things that have happened that you would think would make years worse than this one.   We’ve lost loved ones.  We’ve had extremely lean years in which we weren’t sure how we’d make ends meet. We nursed a child with cancer for a period of time that lasted longer than a year. There have been plenty of years to compare to this one. Has it really been that terrible for us personally? No. I wonder why I’m spending time whining about discomfort.

I’m rather ashamed, if you want to know the truth.

Then I start thinking of people who have lived in the not-so-distant past.  What about the years of war? What about losing family members or sending them off and not seeing them for long periods of time? What about losing your own child or spouse or sibling or parent to war?  

What about the Great Depression or indeed the flu epidemic in the early 1900s? What about living with polio or another illness long ago when medicines and medical care weren’t as advanced?

I could think about survivors of war, prisoners who were starved, people who were held captive and were the only surviving members of their families to survive.  

I might think about people who are lonely, who spend hours, days, months and years all alone with little human interaction.  What about people who are handicapped? There are people living all over the world who feel we have nothing to be whining about in our country.

We recently had an opportunity to deliver boxes of food to people. I don’t talk about it because I’m patting myself on the back. I talk about it because it is something I feel everyone should do. I am so selfish when it comes to comfort, and traveling to unfamiliar places in the middle of the city could be very scary.  It’s something I’d rather not do and I’m ashamed to feel that way.

One particular mother who spoke very little English invited us into her little apartment in a rundown complex. She had a neat and cozy little living room with modest furnishings and a small Christmas tree. Her toddler was there with her. It was just the two of them, and she thanked us as best she could for the box of food we left.

After we left, I couldn’t help thinking that I wanted to continue to visit her, leaving her things and money and necessities, telling Michelle how hard it must be for her.

We talked about this lady later on and realized that her life in this country was probably far better than it had been, and she was most likely happy and grateful to be where she was. It doesn’t mean we couldn’t help – it just taught me that different people measure happiness and success in other ways.  

To me, her ways of measuring happiness are ways we should all adopt: thankful and happy just to have her basic needs met.

I can look at 2020 alone and see other people are hurting. There are scads of people who are really suffering during this pandemic. They DO think it’s been one of the worst.  They’ve seen death, poverty and terrible things this year due to COVID and other obstacles.  

In my own life, I’ve seen very little to complain about this year and I should be thanking the Lord that I can say that.

So, like many of you, I am more than ready for the new year. But I think I’ve learned I haven’t had things so bad, really.  

I am in hopes that 2021 will bring more opportunities to recognize the blessings – even if some of them are in the form of what I’d call hardship.  

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