I read my journal entries for the year. A lot of them turned into blog posts so you may have read them too. I was struck once again by how challenging this year has been. I don’t have to remind you of that, and history will have its own take on 2020. But after reading through my personal log of events and emotions, I am feeling pretty good. That is, I am at a really good place now, after all that. In fact, my life feels much more comfortable now than it did back in January, before the pandemic revealed itself for what it was.
A year ago I was anticipating a big year, full of uncertainties. I was wrong about some things and right about others.
I was wrong about Trump.
I thought the impeachment process of early 2020 was justified though it was sure to fail. I thought, if we had survived three years of Trump we could survive one more. I had no idea that hundreds of thousands of Americans would literally not survive one more year of Trump. I had no idea how much damage he could do to the democratic process. I had no idea how big his lies could get, how many people would persist in believing them, and how few members of his party would contest them.
I was wrong about Biden.
In early 2020 I thought Biden was the worst possible Democratic choice for president because we needed real change, not a return to the old normal. I was wrong. By now a kind and experienced adult who surrounds himself with other experienced adults looks pretty good. I think he was the only possible choice for these times. And I do not believe that the change Biden wants to bring represents the old normal, though by now the old normal looks pretty good.
(If my political views offend you, I apologize.)
I was right to decide not to go to Congo this year but wrong about why.
I thought leading a delegation to a Third World country with a shaky medical infrastructure, during a global pandemic, might be a bad idea so I canceled such plans (scheduled for late July) even before the lockdown. It turns out that the pandemic was much worse in the US in July than it was in Africa because Africans know what to do in an epidemic: distance, wash hands, shut down commerce and gatherings as necessary until it goes away. Congo was able to open up again by late summer. Congolese are now offering prayers and sympathies to their American friends.
We were right to mask up and plan to stay home for at least a year.
In April I made a list of things I would not do until there was a vaccine, which was predicted to be a year to 18 months away. This list and the timeline have turned out to be pretty accurate. However, I thought we could make an exception for family visits as soon as travel restrictions were lifted. We did visit family in early July but have since decided against personal visits until the most vulnerable among us are vaccinated. Distant Thanksgiving, distant Christmas were not in my plans but here we are. It would be a terrible time to get sick and die, with vaccines just around the corner.
We were right to sponsor a refugee but wrong about what it would require of us.
We thought the main challenge of sponsoring an asylum seeker would be how to comfortably welcome a stranger into our household. But the main challenge was getting him here in the first place, as the cruelty and chaos of the ICE regime increased. His detention stretched to five months full of uncertainty for all of us. The cost of legal help and a new bond rule increased the financial commitment. And shortly after he was paroled to us in early March, the pandemic shutdowns imposed all kinds of barriers to his adjustment and the asylum process. However, by then “Ben” was no stranger to us and his adjustment to our household, and ours to him, couldn’t have been smoother. Although oppressive rule changes continue to thwart the asylum process, life with Ben has been sweet.
We were right to think, “The more the merrier.”
The Pink Lady has three extra bedrooms, each with bath. Ben occupies one. Our family isn’t coming to visit for the foreseeable future. In late summer/early fall, two other asylum seekers, whose sponsors were unable to offer the open-ended housing commitment necessitated by the pandemic and the tightening rule-squeeze on asylum seekers, needed housing. They are from the same country and language group as Ben and have known each other since their days in detention. We first welcomed “Sandra” into one of the two remaining rooms. When that worked out well, we put “Jeb” into the other one.
The three have become community for each other and for us—although we distance or mask when we are in the same room with them because they are out and about more than we are, with parttime work. Everybody, it seems, has the right mix of space, privacy, and company in the Pink Lady, which is much larger than the two of us need. Other sponsors and friends are doing their part by giving them driving lessons, helping them find jobs, taking them to appointments, and helping them set up a once-a-week samosa-making enterprise.
People seem skeptical when I insist that this is all very easy for us to do, but it is. Maybe it seems easy in contrast with what has gone before and what continues to go on in the world around us. Maybe it is because we are at ease with Africans. That isn’t all, though. Life truly is good in the Pink Lady in ways we could not have predicted, just as we could not have predicted all the terrors and losses of this year.
It is so good that I have my Christmas shopping done early and I am writing this year-end summary weeks before I usually get around to it. All we have to do now is put together our annual list of movies and series that have kept us entertained. And stay healthy.
Good health to you and yours!