As we approach the end of 2020, a year filled with turmoil, uncertainty, and hardship, it is unlikely that many will be sad to see it go. It will nevertheless undoubtedly remain a significant year, with many basic aspects of our lives altering perhaps forever. It can be difficult to find the good in such circumstances, though a few indirect benefits include people finally learning to wash their hands properly, the planet getting a pollution break, and pet adoption soaring. This is of course all cold comfort to those who lost their livelihoods and loved ones amid the pandemic; with the economic prognosis continuing to look at best unsure. Yet it is the difficult times in life that prompt reflection and growth, and as this year has touched us all regardless of who we are or where we live in the world, there are some enduring lessons we can take away.
Amid political and social polarisation with the disputed US election, the growth of BLM, and the continued issue of Brexit, one could be forgiven for being dispirited about the prospects for a harmonious and peaceful world. But above the din of bickering and factionalism, two powerful testaments to collective human achievement occurred this year. In May, SpaceX successfully completed the first manned spaceflight to the International Space Station in nearly a decade and has continued to impress with the rapid succession of unmanned rocket launches throughout the year. This inspiring demonstration of our capacity to explore and overcome has been joined this month by the deployment in the UK of first Covid-19 vaccine, developed in record time by a coalition of scientists and corporations from around the world.
The rapid development of a vaccine, and the renewed will to explore the stars showcases the very best of what humanity can do when our backs are against the wall and we pull together for a collective vision. These successes teach us the important lesson of not losing sight of the long-term goals amid short-term setbacks and struggles, as well as assuring us that even though things seem chaotic now, the world will keep turning. These achievements, impressive as they are, may however seem somewhat impersonal. The end of the year is not only a time to reflect on major world events, but to think about smaller things, closer to home. Here, once again, 2020 taught us an unexpected but needed lesson.
Due to the pandemic, we gained an appreciation for those often unappreciated; for supermarket staff and delivery drivers, and for all those key workers who continued to ensure society functioned smoothly. Parents with their children now at home with them for long periods gained a new appreciation for teachers, while the nation collectively cheered on the NHS. As working from home and Zoom calls entered our lives, the traditional formalities of business were eased, and in general we developed a greater sense of understanding and empathy. The pandemic also acted as a wakeup call to get in touch with loved ones, to check on our neighbours, as well as providing the pause many needed to re-evaluate what was truly important in life. Career changes, home purchases, relationships and more were all re-assessed through the lens of Covid-19.
Entering 2021, we will undoubtedly all be more grateful for the small things in life. Whether it is enjoying the outdoors, being able to visit concerts, to go to the pub, or to see groups of friends. All of the things that were once mundane aspects of normal life have now been renewed, and we understand that they are not to be taken for granted. Likewise, having been confined to our homes for much of the year, many have reconnected with a sense of the local. This has been compounded by the fact many local businesses are deeply struggling, from pubs that are the heart of the town or village, to local restaurants, to music venues and family stores that have been landmarks for generations. 2020’s hardship has rekindled our sense of local community, and along with the other changes the year has wrought it will hopefully continue well into the future.
Thus, while at first glance, 2020 will not be a year that very many will look back on fondly, it is a year that taught us a lot about ourselves and the wider world. We all enter 2021 with a sense of trepidation, and with the understanding that the world will not return to how it was at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. So, we must take forward the lessons 2020 has taught us and use them to make 2021 a better year for all.