Lessons Learned

The title of this blog post was the subtitle of the ‘book’ that started all of this. In 2008, as my oldest daughter was graduating from high school, I put on paper my insights and reflections of what I had learned over time for her to have as a reference throughout her life.  That gift eventually led to my book and then this blog. My goal was to share that we learn lessons on our journey from everything we do, good or bad. We learn lessons on our journey from everything that happens to us, good or bad.

I am hearing people say they are glad 2020 is over and they couldn’t wait to be rid of it, some even saying it was a lost year. Life is too precious and short to let there ever be a lost year. I agree it was not the year I expected, and it threw curve balls at me. However, I will not allow it to be a lost year. In fact, when I reflect upon those 12 months, I see successes and progress. We can’t throw out the bad without the good going with it.

In 2020 I connected with at least 25 new passengers on my journey in a significant way. Those connections most likely would not have happened had there not been a pandemic. I have new colleagues and friends, mentors and mentees; I am closer to others than I would have been without being caught in a pandemic. Being unable to travel – which I have done at an elevated level for the past two decades or so – meant I could spend just about every night in my own home, sleep in my own bed, eat dinner and spend quality time with my wife. This has been a blessing.

Even before the coronavirus took hold, I had experiences in 2020 that I would not want to remove from my life. I spent time in Iowa with an incredible young man who has a passion to see farming practices improve to be more productive and sustainable. I recommend if you want to be inspired by a millennial, you investigate Continuum Ag and Mitchell Hora.

My wife Vicki discovered an incredibly special person, Edith. The church had a list of older parishioners that might be isolated and uneasy during the pandemic and asked parishioners to reach out. Vicki answered that call and since April she has been a part of Edith’s life and she has become a part of ours. We were also able to answer the call for volunteers by our local Meals on Wheels as their need for service skyrocketed while their base of volunteers diminished, both an outcome of COVID.

I am not ignoring or dismissing the pain many people have faced and are facing because of loss due to this pandemic. I recognize that jobs have been lost, financial stability is precarious, and love ones have died. There has been a toll on mental health for many. This loss, some of it intensely personal, hurts. Nor am I forgetting about the front-line health care workers whose year has been a blur and a dangerous burden. As well as considering the impact on a generation of school kids learning remotely. Together, these narratives of pain have a small bit of comfort in that they have been a shared experience. Many are going through it and will get through it. To reframe 2020, I would argue that we had a year of exceptional losses versus a lost year.

It is those of us bemoaning the long pause on our family or career goals, dreams, celebrations, or holiday gatherings that need to get over it. In the big picture and long term, many of us have only had life disrupted and inconvenienced. Has the course of our lives been reshaped? Whether events are good or bad, this can be a time to grow stronger. We have a lot of living to do, no matter how much is left. Jimmy Buffett has a song line from Cowboy in the Jungle, “Twenty-four hours maybe sixty good years, it’s really not that long a stay. Plowing straight ahead come what may.”

To put into perspective what a lost year may be, consider the plight of the enslaved people who arrived in the 13 American colonies of an emerging great nation. Their families, holidays, and traditions were ripped from them. Immigrants today and even our ancestors put their own lives (years) on hold to benefit the next generation. Noah and his family spent an entire year aboard the ark, surviving the destruction of the rest of mankind, not seeing dry land, and living in a floating zoo.

A lost year defined as our daily routines disrupted is based on a stable life that is very middle-class=”=”” and a modern-day, a first-world problem. Our culture has become fixated on accomplishments and work ethic. Work is often the source of our identity and its value is tied to accomplishments. With 2020 being the antithesis of productivity in what we have come to expect and believe, we want to consider it lost. Nelson Mandela never lamented over his ‘lost years’ in prison. He kept an incredibly positive outlook; one of forward movement, and famously said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

As the calendar turned to 2021, we desire to turn that page, literally and figuratively, for a clean slate or new beginning. Why does it have to be a new year? Why even a new day? A new year or new day will not simply recalibrate everything. The past issues will linger, COVID-19 is still here, and aftershocks will be with us for a while. We should recalibrate our perspective and not simply look at it from an earthly one. It is selfish to think that God’s complete design for our lives can be fully understood, as well as fulfilled, in our lifetime. The effects and impact can be far reaching.

In the narrative of Scripture hundreds of years can pass with the turn of a page. An adult’s lifetime can be described in one verse. Jesus leaps from birth to a 12-year-old in the temple talking to the teachers to being baptized in the Jordan river in his 30s. A “lost” year is a fear rooted in man’s standards. God doesn’t think of time the way we think of it. We live and move and have our being in our allotted days, but God sees our present in the sweep of eternity.

God doesn’t waste anything. There is no loss with God. Every trial can push us to a new place producing growth. This is what Peter wrote about in his letter to the earliest followers of Jesus when they were facing difficulties and persecution. Peter told them that trials and loss were serving a purpose, which was to reveal “the genuineness of your faith.” Times of trouble give us a clear view of the state of our hearts towards God. Our current pains will serve a purpose for God’s plan.

We have been given a defined, though not fully revealed, slice of history that is uniquely ours. Let’s recognize the opportunity to use any “new moment” to move ahead. We need to use our limited time to the best of our ability, no matter what the circumstances; never to consider it lost or worse, wasted.


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