As the old melancholy year passes, the cynical mind struggles to see hope and good cheer coming in the new year.
Lonely deaths and lasting anguish despoiled the past year. Sequestered in COVID laden hospitals and nursing homes, grandparents, moms, dads, and children died alone. In past years for our families as with so many, when fatal disease overwhelmed loved ones, at least one family member was continually beside them with others congregated nearby. COVID denied these intimate times of solace, prayer, and goodbyes to tens of thousands. For others, family separation from seclusion at home was nearly as depressing, too often leading to death by despair or suicide.
Lamentations for lost loved ones will continue far into the new year as vaccination logistics and foolish denials hinder a return to general wellness.
The heroic sacrifices of caregivers – long, bleak, and stressful hours with few breaks; risks, some fatal, to their own health; time away from family, especially children – add to the year’s distress with little relief looming in the near term.
Suffering has extended to and will long continue for the families of those who died and those who suffered lasting complications from COVID. Anguish has also come to those crushed by businesses shut-downs, lost jobs, and financial ruin. Overrun foodbanks exemplify the impact, e.g. the Associated Press reported that Feeding America “has never handed out so much food so fast.” The organization saw a 60% increase in food bank users with about 4 in 10 first-time users.
Widespread suffering is new to 21st century America, but not to much of the world. (Is there a foreboding here that America is not so immune to desolation as we think?)
Yes, vaccinations do offer hope that the suffering will ease, but how far away is realizing that hope?
So, as the year turns, our joy must come not from what will be but what we can find in the midst of this continuing tragedy.
The new Pixar movie, “Soul,” poignantly reminds us that everyday wonders yield countless joys. A cynical soul discovers joy in a scrumptious taste, nature’s beauty, soulful music, a job well done, and more.
“We’re all kind of striving but you can stop and admire the sunset or the leaves or whatever,” co-author/director Pete Doctor told Variety. “That’s a real, honest joy of life.”
Outside our home, moments of joy come whenever a grandchild’s face lights up in a big smile, pink and purple sunsets adorn the sky, brightly colored birds encircle our feeder, or a new pansy blossom pokes through. Inside, an uplifting movie, a good book, a taste of our daughter’s homemade bread, or a line from one of our son’s sermons can do the trick.
“Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential,” Compassion.com tells us. “Happiness is not present in darkness and difficulty. Joy never leaves it.” Or as John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Here’s wishing you many light-filled, joyful moments in the coming weeks and months.