2020. The year opened with such potential – the first year in a new decade… the country on an economic high… even 20-20 is synonymous with “perfect vision” – how could anything go wrong?
You know how they say “Make plans and God laughs”? He must have really been rolling on the floor with this year. Instead of thwarting individual plans with carefully crafted lessons he just dropped a Global Pandemic on everyone mid-March and probably spent the rest of the year binging “The Good Place”.
The question is – did we learn anything? Did we learn the right thing?
We, humans, get pretty high and mighty – thinking we own our existence and control our surroundings. We like to think we can take charge and do as we please – but that came to a screeching halt this past spring as Governor Walz shut down the state for nearly three months. Suddenly shuddered, we had to come to terms with the fact that our lifestyles, our choices, and our freedom could be snatched with several black Sharpies each signing one letter on the Gov’s emergency order document.
We sat stunned, bewildered, and blindsided, thinking these emergency powers will only last a month – it’s now been nearly twelve and we still aren’t allowed inside restaurants, some banks, or even with our entire family in our own home.
As a testament to the human spirit – we haven’t let the last eleven months stop us from living. We’ve learned so much through all of this that will hopefully make us and the next generations better, more thoughtful, compassionate, and resourceful people.
People – who will undoubtedly appreciate a fully stocked shelf in the grocery and big-box stores. We learned right away about supply and demand, where key products come from, and that people are, at their worst, greedy little buggers with a hankering for toilet paper. This means we also learned not to play fast and loose with our TP supply. No more waiting until the last roll to buy more or you may be making your own out of crumpled newspaper. Does anyone even have newspaper anymore?
We learned that despite being sent home, adults and children, along with technology, can still get things done. Pants not required. Work at home folks have known this for years, which is why they have a very limited selection of pants and don’t put their address on their business card.
Zoom/Google/Facetime calls and meetings became the norm between colleagues and family members. Leaving a boring meeting was as easy as “accidentally” disconnecting your wi-fi or emailing everyone to let them know your laptop battery went dead. While there are things to miss about in-person meetings, like trying to figure out if the person walking in the coffee shop is the client you’re meeting with for the first time or saying you forgot something at your desk so you don’t have to make small talk with the office weirdo who shows up a few minutes early to meetings just like you. We have also missed the jokes, the brainstorms, and post-meeting clarification from the colleague that was actually paying attention.
Kids were able to finish the 2020 school year on iPads and laptops sending videos and screenshots to teachers to verify work was being done. The organization of distance learning was a logistical nightmare for teachers and parents alike – but it was packed with lessons too. Teachers learned more about their students’ families, parents learned more about what their kids were learning, and together they learned that communication was key to helping students accomplish their work successfully. We also learned how important in-person school is – not just for learning, where kids benefit from the questions classmates ask, or helping friends or receiving help from a peer when they are struggling – but also socially. At a minimum, the friendships with classmates and relationships with staff, but also how schools help provide for those struggling with food insecurity and family crisis.
We learned that we can adapt. We can slow down. We can reconnect. Some learned while facing an extraordinary time together with their partner that it was finally time to move on, while others were reminded how much they enjoy the people they share a home with.
With calendars empty and extra time, old hobbies resurfaced and new hobbies were attempted. Hopefully, we learned to remember the value in these activities and the joy they bring to life – which is what makes it worth living.
Through the pandemic, murder hornets, riots, election, and the terror squirrels who made their appearance at the buzzer last week in New York, we’ve learned that if you embrace the crazy you can usually roll with the punches. And… if you turn off the social and mainstream media… last year might have actually seemed almost normal.
In all seriousness, we learned that despite how advanced we are in healthcare, technology, and science, we are no match for a microscopic virus that has taken the lives of millions. We learned that while we may know who is at the greatest risk, we don’t know why others with seemingly no risks can be taken from us just as fast. Perhaps of all the things we’ve learned in 2020, the right thing to learn is that we should be humble, and we should be careful and respectful, knowing that our actions could have traumatic unintended consequences.