What if it actually has NOT been a great year?!?

I’ve just returned to Facebook after an approximate six-week sabbatical/break/escape.

Friends have asked, “Did you miss it?” and the truth is that I did. Mostly because I’ve got family and friends scattered like dandelions across the continental United States and I missed hearing about babies and weddings and other such celebrations. I even missed knowing about their sadnesses–I’d have reached out, if I’d known here and there, about the hard times of some folks I care about. I missed what I love most about social media–the sense of global community.

About two hours into my return, I noticed, repeatedly, proclamations of “It’s Been a Great Year!” on the statuses of those I was friending, accompanied by “Year in Review” photo collages. The first one happened to be on the profile page of a dearly loved family member, and I lapped up like my morning coffee the pictures of faces I love and memories I share with those faces.

But I noticed something else–two “somethings else” actually. 1–I did not see such “Year in Review” celebrations on the statuses of a few significant folks in my life who I know have NOT had a great year. Decidedly and definitively NOT a great year. 2– This (an apology from Facebook regarding the whole “It’s Been A Great Year!” feature, largely stemming from a particular instance in which it went horribly, awfully wrong).

And…you know…what if it hasn’t been a great year? Not at all?

What if the year has been one marked by heartache and loss? What if what you’ll remember about 2014 is unspeakable grief? What if you are approaching New Year’s Eve barely clinging to the slim hope offered in 365 brand-new days? What if your year has held so much transition that all you’re longing for in 2015 is firm footing, a little stability to see you through to what’s next? What if…??

And setting aside our personal lives for a moment, can we really claim a “great year!” in these United States, in the world? In the face of Ferguson, of even more school shootings, of a government that argues against itself more than it serves its people, of stolen girls and a heroin epidemic and food deserts (in some our richest cities!) and…and…and.

Look, I don’t mean to be this day’s Grinch…and I would run out of room if I tried to list all the good things in my life here in this space, but…

…I am also painfully aware of the darkness hiding at the edges of all our holiday lights. And this darkness needs tending to. Caring for. All over our lives, all over this world, are such broken places, such broken hearts, in such great need of light. 

A friend asked me this week about New Year’s Resolutions. I have never been one to make such resolutions, and I pushed back at my friend, refusing to acknowledge any efficacy in such a practice. But then I remembered the words of two writers I admire a great deal: singer/songwriter Jewel and the beloved son of my beloved Kentucky, Wendell Berry.

In her late-nineties song Hands, Jewel sings, “In the end, only kindness matters.” And Mr. Berry once wrote, “I believe the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.”

Y’all, if I’m going to commit to something in this new year, it’s going to be centered around these words of Jewel and Wendell. I don’t know what that will look like, and maybe it won’t even be measurable, but in a world that I swear to you I can often hear groaning in its pain and anguish, such kindness, such love, are the only things I am after, the only things I’m looking to embody as I chart a course forward. I can promise you I won’t be entirely successful–but I’ll try (mostly, I suspect, in an effort redeem the times I have failed/will fail miserably at both).

And I have to tell you, if I don’t–if we don’t–then this entire season we’re celebrating, this run of Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then NYE…it will have all been for naught. It will have all been simply for our own pleasure.

Which wasn’t ever the point at all.

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3 thoughts on “What if it actually has NOT been a great year?!?”

  1. Thank you. 2014 was difficult for my family on some many levels – I can’t scream “it’s being a great year”, but I can scream that there was hope, even though, at times I had to search for it deeper than before. Thank you! Love your writing.

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