It's pretty trendy lately to say things like, "2020 was the worst year ever!" The year is ending and I have decided to write a little retrospective.

The year started with Australian forest fires, ended (one hopes) with a terrorist attack in Nashville, and was painted in shades of covid-19 and political division. But none of that matters much to me, I realize, looking back. Why? There was precious little I could do about any of it. This brief retrospective will focus on the things I learned, relearned, or dug deeper into, and on gratitude.  Some of this learning and gratitude originates in my professional work, and some of it originates in my personal relationships. I think it all applies everywhere.

Things I Learned

Most of the following weren't new lessons. I learned them all in a new or deeper way, though. A lot of the same principles for day-to-day living, it turns out, still applied in 2020.

  • Focus on relationships and activities that matter, positives rather than negatives, and things you can change rather than things you cannot.
  • Ignore the news. You'll hear it all anyway, but it will consume you less.
  • Make the most out of a bad situation.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Fear is for raising the alarm, not for deciding how to respond.
  • Be prudent in speech.
  • Pray more.
  • At the end of the day, confide each remaining concern into the hands of a loving God, and sleep well.

Things I'm Grateful For

When times are hard or uncomfortable, it is so easy to focus on difficulties and to become weighed down by them. This weighing down has a multiplying effect because it worsens the next set of difficulties. It also poisons otherwise neutral or positive experiences. The remedy, I have found, is gratitude. I am grateful for:

  • Deepened relationships and closer camaraderie with the very most important people in my life.
  • A job that pays well and coworkers who are worth their weight in gold.
  • Time to get into better shape and develop new skills, and the sense to make some use of it.
  • Having been able to emerge from a bog of resentment into which I had wandered.
  • Opportunities to be generous with time and money.
  • Insights shared with me by friends and colleagues.
  • My health, family, close friends, and faith.


I doubt you'll find anyone on Earth who thinks 2020 was an easy year. A nice point of unity, that.

If I were the author of 2020, I would probably not repeat it in quite the same way. I think we mostly know one or two people who died more than we would in a typical year, and that's certainly sad. A lot of people fell into economic hardship, and that's also distressing, to be sure.

I'm glad to have lived through it, and to have been here for it. But it wasn't all bad. It really wasn't. I hope that if you reflect, you will be able to see that there was a lot of good in it still because there is always a lot of good. Even in hard times, life is worth living.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash.