A year ends. A moment in time, not significant if you are considering the scale of the movement of Earth through the heavens, but meaningful to us who live by calendars created by humankind to bring added order to our lives. Of course, nothing will magically change at midnight. There will be no version of a carriage reverting to a pumpkin no matter how much we might hope for fairytale endings.

The carnage of 2020 will literally bleed over into 2021 in the form of the pandemic and the constellation of hardships that encircle it. Add to this a great undercurrent of uncertainty. There are still two senate races in Georgia that will define what our government will look like. And a few more weeks for mischief-making, and far worse potentially, from a defeated president who is devoid of shame and willing to try to pull down the republic as he stumbles out the door.

The impulse, self-generated though it may be, is to try to feel hope at the beginning of a new year. And yet hope can feel distant when you know how much pain is coursing through our nation and the larger world. The odds are, tragic though they may be, that many of you have lost friends and loved ones to this deadly virus. There are real fears of rents not being paid, food not on the table, and careers lost. I am well aware of the relative privilege I and many others have at this moment. But that is why it is so important for those of us who can shoulder a greater burden to hold on to hope. We need to be better, do better, and act better in 2021. That will take hope, a belief a future can be brighter for some, and hopefully many.

One of the features of a new year is there is a sense of rebirth. This will be soon matched by days of increasing sunlight, warmer temperatures and eventually spring. We hold on to the notion that life goes in circles, even if we passengers on Earth head but in one direction with each passing year. There is nothing like aging during a pandemic to put an even finer focus on the fragility of life. The months of isolation wear on the souls of a species that has generally sought community. But we must hang tightly to the threads of optimism, a new government, a vaccine, a committed populace, cracks in the facade of cruelty that has defined so much of our recent history.

2020 has been a chance to renew a reckoning with our nation. And for me, an unusually lucky journey through life is made all the more so by being here with you. I have some plans for 2021 for other forms of engagement. I hope you will continue to join me. But for now, I wish you all a healthy and happy new year. I pray for those grieving, ill, and suffering. I yearn for our national leadership to choose empathy and wisdom over cruelty and folly. May 2021 be a year of light out of darkness.