A brighter year ahead

By George Valadie

Wishing you and yours a happy and blessed 2021! I hope.

No, that’s not good enough. Not nearly enough.

We need to PRAY it happens, not wish it, don’t we?

Prayers for even a little bit better of anything would be a good start, wouldn’t it?

Literally millions of words have and will be written about the insanity of the previous 365 days. Most of them negative.

Of course, it’s not that 2020 caused any of it. In fact, it caused absolutely none of it.

Nothing more than a label, really, 2020 is but a measure of time — but you have to admit, it is a time during which the world seemingly fell apart.

Thus it’s easy to understand the negative press forever attributed to this poor, old pitiful year.

You can’t really list it all, either — the pandemic that won’t seem to die, millions of people who did, livelihoods and life savings lost, strife and unrest, an election like none other, and shortages of consumer products we never imagined. Those were just the headline grabbers.

And anything else that jumped up and bit someone — serious or silly — was blamed on it, too, with a resounding “Well, what did you expect? It’s 2020!”

Good things happened, too. But most will be forgotten or passed over. Even for the many industries that benefited from the misfortune of others — and there are always those that do — their success will be tempered with a certain amount of guilt they shouldn’t have to endure.

In my own world, I’ve written about the stress of keeping our schools open, a mother and a brother-in-law we laid to rest, and having contracted the virus myself.

I’m as happy as anyone to view 2020 in the rearview mirror.

But now I’m making an effort at turning the page and seeing the brighter side of this life. And I’m asking for your help.

I’m 100 percent certain that everyone has his or her own tale of delight from this year we just survived. In spite of all the chaos, you have that memory that makes you break into a big ol’ grin whenever you recall it.

I want to know what it is. Seriously, I do.

Send me your favorite anecdotal story from this past year of craziness — the one that makes you smile even today — so I can edit a collection of happiness for a future column I might entitle “2020 — Some Things Actually Did Make Us Smile.”

One thing we’ve surely learned in this year of separation is how much we do indeed need one another. And if we can’t hug each other literally, then we can lighten the load from afar, if only for a moment.

What’s the story that makes you chuckle? That’s the one I want to share. That’s the one we all want to hear. The only rule: It had to have happened in 2020.

No one wants to go first, so I’ll jump-start the process with one of my own — just don’t leave me hanging out there.

We have a 2-year-old black Labrador named Gipper. He’s all boy. And all energy.

In an effort to socialize him — and wear him out — we drop him off at a doggie day care a few days each week.

I’m the routine dropper-offer and picker-up-per. Each afternoon, when I arrive, before going inside to claim our little maniac, I go ahead and open the car’s back door so he’ll have a straight shot and little chance of getting distracted.

Once in the car, he gets a treat for obedience and off we go on the two-mile drive home. Along the way, he hangs his head out the back window, lost in the smells of the neighborhood.

One afternoon, Gipper uncharacteristically decided to climb into the front seat while we were driving along. He’s 70-plus pounds and a lot wiggly. It’s not a good mix for a safe ride.

Usually responsive, I had to coax him to the back — driving and shoving, shoving and driving — but it was clear he wanted no part of the back seat, though he finally complied.

And then everything became clear. Because it was at that exact moment a cat unexpectedly leaped over my shoulder landing square in the middle of my lap. I kid you not.

And we don’t own a cat.

A resident at the animal day care we frequent, this feline had jumped in when I’d left the back door open and had been along for the ride

.I could just picture Gipper’s thoughts, “Hey Dad, I need you to look back here. Dad? Dad? Please? OK, can I come up there?”

After avoiding death and getting turned back toward the day care, I was now actually trying to keep the cat in my lap so as to avoid the potential brawl that both were surely contemplating.

That failed, too. He leaped to the back, and we somehow drove the last few hundred yards in prayer and peace.

It’s a stupid story, but it makes me laugh.

Amazed I hadn’t wrecked, Nancy was left to offer, “Well, what did you expect? It’s 2020!”

We’ve had enough bad news, don’t you think? We’ll have more for sure — but we can all add a little brightness to someone else’s world. Maybe they live next door. Maybe they live down the hall. No matter, who doesn’t need 2021 to be better?

And if you don’t want to share the family tale, that’s OK. Share something else to brighten another’s day. Or week. Or year.

Bake them some cookies. Run some errands. Baby-sit for an evening out. Send a card. Write a letter. Help at a soup kitchen. Pay it forward at the drive-thru.

Rake some leaves. Shovel some snow. Compliment somebody. Leave a better tip. Donate food, clothes, your time. Listen. Call. Reach out.

Make a difference. Be a difference.

As so many are asking God for a better 2021, perhaps He needs us to be that answer to some-one else’s prayer.

He’s funny like that. And we could all use some funny.

Dear God — May we learn from the year just passed. Thank you for letting us have another. Amen.


George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga. He can be reached at valadieg@myndhs365.com.

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