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We fell on hard times in 2020. It’s a year we’d like to forget but never will. It has tested us immeasurably, pushing us to the limit in a variety of ways.

We all have our own story to tell about why this has been a year like no other. As dreadful and unreal as 2020 has been for most of us, it has been far worse and devastatingly real for countless others. Some have died from covid, leaving behind heartbroken family members and close friends. Some have gotten very sick or had to quarantine because of the virus. Many have lost their jobs, their businesses or their financial security due to the pandemic.

It’s been a year of unfathomable isolation and distance from others, too much uncertainty and disruption, too much lost time and opportunity, too much melancholy and anxiety, too much fast food and carryout meals, too much television and cable news, too much social media, too many Zoom meetings.

We miss each other. We need unfettered human interaction. We need to gather again.

Stephanie Zacharek writes in the Dec. 14 issue of Time magazine: “If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off in 20 minutes. This year wasn’t doomily thrilling, like a fictional apocalypse. It was wrought with pain, maddeningly mundane, the routine of the everyday turned against us … Our most debilitating threat this year was a sense of helplessness.”

While our personal and work lives have been upended, what we have encountered should be put into historical perspective. Previous generations of Americans, notably the “Greatest Generation,” endured far worse and much lengthier hard times than we’ve experienced in 2020. Americans who came before us suffered and sacrificed through eras of extreme hardship but managed to persevere. So will we.

National leadership in Washington failed the country this year. That’s not a political statement — that’s a fact. It serves no purpose to recount the failures. Rather, better to pay tribute to those among us who we haven’t seen parading around on television but who instead went about their work in anonymity, rising to the occasion this year and tirelessly getting it done when it really counted: frontline health care workers, first responders, teachers, scientists, blue-collar workers and essential services workers of every kind, small business owners, social services providers, community volunteers and so many others. These dedicated people are the real heroes of 2020 and are the recipients of our collective gratitude.

The pandemic has threatened public health and wreaked havoc on our economy this year. On top of that, we’ve also been witness to intense social, cultural and political conflict as well as dangerous efforts to undercut democracy. We watch it unfold every day on television or on our smart devices. The partisan rancor has been another layer of angst for everyone to silently absorb while stuck at home. Yet, a pandemic, a bitterly contested election and abuse of power at the highest levels of government didn’t keep people from voting. Attempts to undermine our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law have failed. Our country may be sadly and sharply divided, but it’s not irretrievably broken. It’s still the best place to live on Earth.

The healthy course is to stay positive and not be too hard on ourselves or each other. Despite a year full of despair and disappointment, we haven’t quit. Very few have thrown in the towel. And through it all there have been untold acts of kindness and generosity everywhere.

A rapidly approaching new year signals the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of the next. It’s time to turn the page. With safe and effective vaccines on the way, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. But presently we are still in the tunnel battling a virus that’s everywhere now and deadlier than ever. Zacharek concluded her essay in Time with these words: “Americans are inherently optimistic … We’re a nation with our thumbs perpetually stuck in our suspenders. Our optimism is our most ridiculous trait, and our greatest. It can’t always be morning in America. Sometimes we have to get through the darkest hour before. The aurora bides its time.”

The months directly ahead will be rife with formidable challenges, continued disruptions and profound heartache for many, but hopefully by summer we will be back to whatever normal is going to look like. All we can ask is that the new year give us a fair chance to get past the past and a renewed opportunity to reach our full potential. There’s every reason to believe that 2021 promises to be a year in which we can once again robustly live life and fully pursue our hopes and dreams.

Merry Christmas. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

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Woody Bassett is a lifelong Fayetteville resident and a local attorney. Email him at [email protected] .

Print Headline: What 2020 gave us

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