What a crappy year (?)

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Churches closed.  Pubs closed.  Restaurants closed.  Businesses gone to the wall.  Schools opening and shutting.  Social Distancing and masks.  Hand sanitiser and 1,630,610 dead from Covid.  Hospitals full and dire warnings to “protect the NHS” now the political war-cry.  Christmas not cancelled (yet) but limping along covered in health warnings.  Conspiracy theories rife.  Political and scientific solutions not “controlling the virus” (because it takes all of us all the time behaving sensibly and cautiously).  Rule-breaking now applauded.  Rule-keeping now for the vulnerable and old. 

What a year even with a vaccine now being rolled out one injection x 2 at a time.

I have seen those of faith, those not of faith, those near and far all bemoan what a crappy year 2020 has been. Have shaken my head at the Father Christmas meme with him piddling on “2020” … been sad at so many the “F**K 2020” verdicts … wondered at the writing-off of a whole year as wasted and unfulfilled.

I have been surprised and dismayed at the overwhelming sense of waste we have determined this year to have been.

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We don’t do Christmas Cards.  Haven’t done for several years.  There was the ever-increasing cost of postage. The obligation to send one to those who had sent us one last Christmas.  The ritual of adding their name and ours.  A duty that takes forever and is in the bin as soon the decorations come down.  A ritual that tells both sides this duty of “love and affection” has been fulfilled for another year.

So instead we write a fulsome family update letter with pictures of our brood saved as a pdf and emailed to close family, extended family, and friends near and far.  We have no expectation of anyone else doing the same.  We simply ask that the current generation pass it on to their children – and we include current email addresses so that the younger generation can keep in touch when they want. – so that when we have family get-togethers our younger generation “know” each other rather than being strangers – so that our older generation AND current generation AND younger generation are all “one” family.  And I have to tell you …  

This year has been pretty fabulous in so many ways.

Writing a summary of our family life through the year reminded me just how much living had been happening.  Our two sons have both moved country this year.  We have three of our family back at University: a second degree course, a PhD course, and a midwifery degree course.  One has sold and bought a house.  One is pregnant and due in the early part of 2021.  We have visited two countries this year despite me being on the government’s “covid-vulnerable list”.  Each of our children and their family has survived – and thrived – in health (physical and mental), has survived financially, and remain in their own homes with hope and stability for the future.  I remain employed and can plan ahead tentatively.  Mrs Paul and “childcare” for our two daughters’ wee ones has been an officially endorsed “bridge” to staying in touch with our family and grandchildren (and all our sanity).  And along the way I have become part of a small group – less than 40 – of covid-vulnerable people ALL of whom default to kindness EVERY time.

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That – against all the negative media noise – is pretty damn amazing!  And there’s more …

I don’t need a lot of the stuff I thought I needed.  I don’t pine for a lot of the stuff I took for granted.  I have learned to how to thrive when simply surviving seemed impossible. 

And “shit” has happened along the way.  A close family member died suddenly not of covid but of “stuff” of life and living.  Planning has become a new art-form.  Plans changing and changing again has become a reality.  Finding ways to simply and safely touch another human being has been challenging (and so rewarding).  Seeing up close and personal how many ordinary human beings have to break rules in order to feel free a real curiosity. 

It has been a year of learning and challenge and reward – perhaps like no other for a very long time.  Something else – with hindsight – I have to add …

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Laying down the bible before all this kicked-off – not being dependant on daily “biblical nourishment” – not requiring “in-person worship” (yeuchh!) – not being needy of church or religion but still full of connection with something bigger than all of us – of “Love without condition” that I see as “God” (other gods are available – obvs) that is present AND a real presence throughout this planet … i.e. NOT being needy of God, Religion or Church –

THAT is a blessing.

I read the bible and see the Good News born in a time of even greater turmoil.  And yet we take such hope from that time.  We worship a God-man who walked through that time with complete confidence.

I have walked through 2020 and found the same hope, have such confidence, experienced such Love without condition in and from so many ordinary churched and unchurched people.  “God” is bigger than church – is bigger than the bible – is constrained by religion.

I always knew that.

But in 2020 I now know that.

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