If I had to choose just one word to describe how many of us felt in 2020, it would be “hopeless”. 2020 felt hopeless. The year started off well, but went downhill fast and stayed there.
We spent much of 2020 dreaming about the arrival of 2021. The new year represented hope, and it couldn’t arrive fast enough. We prayed for it to make haste and then make everything all better! Unfortunately, January 2021 has also turned out to be onerous, in some respects even more difficult than 2020. You probably saw the memes on January 7th: ‘Very unhappy with my 7-day trial. I’m sending 2021 back.’ And the January fun had only just begun.
If you’re already disappointed at the way 2021 is turning out, as compared to the way you imagined it would go in your dreams, please recalibrate and give it a chance. Think of 2021 as the meme: “Clean-up on Aisle 45!” The world was an enormous mess at the end of 2020, and the turn of the calendar did not instantly make everything better. It’s an enormous job, and it will take time.
Unlike 2020, however, we can be reasonably confident that 2021 will end much better than it began. It is highly likely that our lives will look close to normal by the time we get to December, and that each month from now until then will be better than the last.
Do not despair that the beginning of 2021 has not been an improvement over 2020.
Reset your expectations. Look ahead, and stay focused on the welcome improvements 2021 will bring. Dream of celebrating the next secular new year with packed parties, dancing, singing and hugs! Germs flying! And if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll be similarly celebrating other occasions and holidays earlier in the year.
Normalcy will return in 2021. Repeat to yourself as needed. Normalcy will return in 2021. This will not be another annus horribilis; this has merely been a tough start. An understandably tough start.
Hold onto your hope. Dream of a wonderful, normal, celebratory end to 2021. And be ever thankful for the gradual improvements the year will bring along the way.
Prayer for Our Country on this Inauguration Week
by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen
Our God and God of our ancestors, bless this country and all who dwell within it. Help us to experience the blessings of our lives and circumstances. To be vigilant, compassionate, and brave. Strengthen us when we are afraid. Help us to channel our anger so that it motivates us to action. Help us to feel our fear so that we do not become numb. Help us to be generous with others so that we raise each other up. Help us to be humble in our fear, knowing that as vulnerable as we feel there are those at greater risk, and that it is our holy work to stand with them. Help us to taste the sweetness of liberty. To not take for granted the freedoms won in generations past or in recent days. To heal and nourish our democracy, that it may be like a tree planted by the water whose roots reach down to the stream. It need not fear drought when it comes, its leaves are always green. Source of all Life, guide our leaders with righteousness. Strengthen their hearts but keep them from hardening. That they may use their influence and authority to speak truth and act for justice. May all who dwell in this country share in its bounty, enjoy its freedoms and be protected by its laws. May this nation use its power and wealth to be a voice for justice, peace and equality for all who dwell on earth. May we be strong and have courage. To be bold in our action and deep in our compassion. To discern when we must listen and when we must act. To uproot bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, racism, discrimination and violence in all its forms. To celebrate the many faces of God reflected in the wondrous diversity of humanity. To welcome the stranger and the immigrant and to honor the gifts of those who seek refuge and possibility here, as they have since before this nation was born. Let justice well up like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream (Jeremiah 17:8 ; Isaiah 16:3–5; Amos 5:24)