2020 was definitely a year for the books. If someone would have told me a year ago what we were about to endure once March came, I never would have believed them. Social distancing, mask-wearing, “stay at home” orders, and toilet paper shortages sound exactly like something out of the latest sci-fi novel — certainly not like anything any of us ever expected to experience in real life.
Yet here we are, almost 10 months later, living a completely different reality than we were this time last year. COVID-19 has touched and changed us all. For some, it’s been the personal loss of loved ones due to the virus or restrictions caused by it; for others, it’s been battling the virus themselves. Some people have been working on the frontlines to protect and serve, while others have been working from home in effort to slow the spread. Others still have lost their jobs all together. Some people have been schooling kids from home while trying to manage their jobs, and some have been sanitizing hospitals, making it unsafe for them to come home to their loved ones at night. All of us have gone through a year of birthdays, holidays, celebrations and hardships that look very different than we intended. Bottom line: None of us have walked away from this experience unscathed or unchanged. It has affected every human on the planet.
On top of the virus, we’ve also witnessed an uprising due to the systemic racism and injustices that continue to plague our nation, we’ve seen wildfires consume states due to global warming, and we’ve gone through an election season unlike any other. Many of us are weary, fighting personal battles on top of the public ones. Surviving 2020 felt like surviving the apocalypse.
And now here we are in January 2021 looking for a beacon of light — something, anything that tells us it’s going to get better. In the midst of all this suffering and worry, where do we find our hope? In a vaccine? With the inauguration of a new president? By supporting causes of social justice? In the faint glimpse of normalcy’s return that continues to linger just beyond our reach?
I agree that these things can and do bring us hope. They create a possibility for change and for life to be better than it currently is. But I also contend that each of us is the embodiment of hope for one another.
“Each of us is the embodiment of hope for one another.”
Hope is the person who offers to grocery shop for a neighbor so they don’t have to risk their already compromised immune system. It’s the person who grants the dying wish of a cancer patient whose life will not outlive this pandemic. Hope is the person who plays music on balconies for passersby to enjoy, the flag hanging in front of a house showing support of the marginalized, and the person who smiles and says hello from across the street as you both try to get some fresh air. It’s the chaplain who risks his or her own life for the critically ill in need of spiritual care, the truck drivers who bring food and necessities to our local stores, and the first person to volunteer for the vaccine.
These are normal people becoming everyday heroes. Small acts of kindness granting immeasurable amounts of hope. These morsels of hope keep us going from day to day. Right now, small things matter, perhaps more than ever.
2021 is our time to breathe hope into our world once again. It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it really is quite simple because small acts create a lasting impact. If you’re struggling to know how to embody hope in what feels like a hopeless era, here are a few ideas:
- Drop off a meal on someone’s doorstep.
- Shovel your neighbor’s driveway when it snows.
- Send a card or small gift in the mail to a friend “just because.”
- Volunteer online to help kids with distance learning.
- Support a nonprofit doing good in the world but struggling to make ends meet because of the current economy.
- Read books and educate yourself on how to end systemic racism in our country.
- Vote as if your life depended on it.
- Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Check on your loved ones and make sure they have what they need.
Some days hope feels hard to come by. I’ve sure had my fair share of hopeless days. But when we rise from those moments of darkness, let us remember those who are still in them. You may not feel qualified. You may not think you have the strength. But if each of us makes our corner of the world a little bit brighter, together we can light up the darkness.
We are stronger together.
We are more than this pandemic.
Let hope be your guiding light into 2021.
Then become that hope.
Look for ways each day to shine.
Amber Cantorna grew up in the deeply conservative evangelical culture of Focus on the Family and now lives in the Denver area with her wife, Clara. She is the author of Refocusing My Family and Unashamed: A Coming Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians. She is a musician, writer and speaker.