One Weirdly Encouraging Takeaway from 2020

I have discovered all kinds of new interests this year — puzzles, painting and drawing, hiking and podcasting, which has centered my work week around lively and often profound heart-to-hearts about what advice we should and should not be following, the search for a few universal truths we can count on (even in these most unsettled of times) and a deep dive on how change really happens, in society, across the globe and person by person.

In this time when our sense of mortality is being primed every damn morning with eye-popping numbers of people all around us infected, hospitalized and dead, not to mention 864 unarmed people shot to death by police this year, I’m wondering about foundational or transcendent ideas that help me make sense of the world and my world. At the end of each episode, I share my takeaways. In today’s year-end solo recording, I shared my top 10 weirdly encouraging takeaways of 2020. Here, I offer up only one, the most deeply hopeful of all:

Change happens. People I know stop drinking and stay sober for the rest of their lives. People I know who are desperately heavy hearted, who can see no reason to be here any longer, who try to close the door on their own lives get therapy and read books and connect to new people in new ways and feel better. People I know who lose the love of their life love again.

Societal change happens too. We know this; 2020 offered evidence on the daily. Two positive proofs of change:

1] The size, composition, regularity and distribution of the civil rights protests this year. This should be a much better country for people of color by now — the progress is embarrassingly and agonizingly slow — but the swell is promising. Every person who shows up to protest, even the performative types, is putting himself in the path of transformation and one by one, that’s how national expectations and standards of equity evolve. For every parent who taught civil rights at the kitchen table and helped kids make signs and find their way to the nearest demonstration, thank you for developing a generation that will help us find that more perfect union.

2] We unleashed science and it worked. That we humans are capable of the rapid adaptation, collaboration and advancement that is takes to make multiple highly effective vaccines, that we are constantly learning, as individuals, as societies, is not getting enough good publicity. The roll out might be full of jank but the shit works. Collaboration and ingenuity — these are super skills that benefit all of us. So for every teacher and professor who inspired students to become scientists, thank you for beginning the process that is now saving all of us.

More change is coming, of course, good and bad, of course. Let’s stick together so we can make sense of it as it rolls through our lives.