We hope you all had a safe and relaxing holiday surrounded by people you love. In this gap between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a good time to reflect on the year that was – even though we’d honestly rather forget 2020.

Did so much really happen in these past 12 months? A pandemic. So many plans and events canceled. Wildfires in California and Australia. Impeachment hearings. Protests and civil unrest in major cities. A tornado destroying hundreds of buildings in Nashville. Flags and monuments targeted. Whistleblowers at every turn. Delays in the postal service. A massive explosion in Beruit. The loss of greats like Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis, Pat Dye, Eddie Van Halen, Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, Regis Philbin, Alex Trebeck, and many other influential figures.

Locally, there were Easter Sunday tornadoes and flooding, COVID led to the cancellation of Boom Days, Third Saturdays and the Mentone summer camps. Schools spent the spring teaching our kids through their Chromebooks at home while many high school seniors had their plans for prom and senior trips disrupted. Industries adapted to the crisis. Rainsville citizens voted to go ‘wet’. Law enforcement + free speech made for an uneasy combination. Despite the pandemic, record numbers of voters participated in our democracy. And we lost too many good people to possibly list here.

It’s comforting to tell ourselves that the new year will be OUR year to not only survive, but to actually thrive. I hope it’s a great one, but with the changing of the calendar, the world won’t magically, instantly improve. People will still suffer and die from this scourge that has robbed so many from us, even as we find hope in these new vaccines. Children will still go to bed hungry. We’ll still disagree with our neighbors about politics, although the heat will hopefully come down since the next national election is still 683 days away.

A phrase comes to mind, first penned in 1650 by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller, who wrote, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The meaning of that phrase is that things always seem the worst right before they improve.

Right now, life as we know it seems very dark. Most of us now know at least one person who has had COVID-19 or died from it or lost a job because of the ripple effects. We are scared because we don’t know how long these difficult times will last, but the sun always rises. The day always dawns. The darkness doesn’t get the final say. God does.

We will get this coronavirus under control. The economy will improve. We will find a way to get along. We’re forever changed by 2020, but maybe some of those disruptions merely accelerated the inevitable and we can take some wisdom from what’s happened.

I’ve seen a meme on Facebook that says, basically, if you survived 2020, that’s something to feel proud about. Amen to that sentiment!

DeKalb County knows a little something about bouncing back from adversity. History recalls multiple occasions when darkness visited us. When New England investors built a community based on the hope of mineral riches that never materialized. When Native Americans were rounded up and forced to migrate westward. When our native sons and daughters went off to fight and die in wars. When our primary industry disappeared to globalization. When tornadoes ripped through our cities and took lives. And this year, when our schools and businesses closed and many stayed in their homes to evade a deadly virus. We always bounce back and learn valuable lessons about resiliency when we do.

As we customarily do, The Times-Journal will be sharing more memories from 2020 in the next several issues. As the happenings above suggest, we’ve had a lot on our plate – mostly not appetizing. We should remember that while the scary and scandalous stories get attention, a lot of good things also happened in 2020. We will be here with you, every step of the way, informing you of what’s important and capturing the times for future generations to recall what it was like to be alive right here, right now. Here’s looking at you, 2021.

Please say a little prayer that it brings us great things.

— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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