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Look forward or back

This is my 11th year end article since I began writing weekly newspaper columns.  I have not gone back and read the past columns, but as I sit here with a blank slate, I cannot help but believe this is the most challenging year yet to summarize.

The obvious approach might be to just review 2020.  There is more about this most challenging year than you could put in one column.  The Coronavirus has been the dominant story.  Add in the challenging and difficult elections of this past year.  Throw in an economic collapse in parts of our economy and millions still out of work or on the verge of financial ruin.   Combine the climate crisis, whether you believe it or not, and widespread racial tensions and we really have some serious issues to face.

I suspect we are all just weary of 2020, with all its trials and tribulations.  We have Coronavirus fatigue, political fatigue, quarantine fatigue and well, just fatigue in general.  We are just tired of everything, including a non-stop barrage of information that only highlights the negative.  Proposed solutions and paths to the future do not win elections.  Relentless negative ads seem to be the only approach that works.

One of my favorite quotes is from writer and philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”.  We surely do not want to repeat 2020.  That begs the question – what can we learn from this dreadful year?

Partisanship is killing us.  If you are not speaking to a friend or a relative after this past contentious election, then I rest my case.  We are a nation of families and friends, not political parties.  It is easy for me to say this since I have been elected as a Democrat, Republican, Independent and Non-Partisan.    

Find one person, hopefully a friend, that you know is an advocate of the opposing party of your own beliefs.  If you cannot put your friendship above your political beliefs, then we as a nation are in big trouble.  I used to love being a devil’s advocate in political discussions.  Now those discussions split families, friendships and more.  

The Coronavirus is another issue of 2020 that we do not want to repeat.  The vaccine is so encouraging and yet is months away from having a major impact on our population.  We are weary of the restrictions even as the virus surges all around us.  Gather some inner strength and do your part, whatever that might be, to fight this scourge until the vaccine has an opportunity to give us a chance for widespread success.

I could list dozens of things that we should reflect on changing from 2020, but they only make us wearier and more depressed.  Perhaps we should reflect on the unexpected positives from this past year.  

I have spent quality time with my wife, eating more meals together than during any year of our marriage.  We have learned to cook with fresh vegetables and new recipes.  

Mary Lou and I watch Jeopardy every night that we can.  We have watched more Netflix series this year than I have in my entire life.  We have eaten more takeout meals than ever before and instinctively have learned how far apart six feet really is.

We have learned how to worship online, and surprisingly it has broadened some of our thinking, though nothing replaces the feel and touch of a church family.

We have learned how to interact with our children and family in different ways.  They are not all compromises.  Some are improvements.  Facetime and Zoom are things I would have never experienced without the demands of the pandemic.

I could go on and on about the challenges, differences, and opportunities of 2020.  Let me just say that I am hopeful on many levels as 2020 ends and 2021 dawns.

The vaccines give us credible optimism for the future. The virus will not disappear with a shot or two in the shoulder, but it gives us an opportunity to successfully adapt and adjust.  There is a chance for a return to some sort of normalcy on our horizon and that is my greatest hope for 2021.

2021.   It is finally here.  It can be a better year.  Let us look back on what we have overcome and look forward to what can be.


Dan Ponder can be reached at

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