Out with the old, in with the new

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Essay: After all the travails of 2020, we must keep hope alive for a better 2021

By Reuven H. Taff

If ever the saying “Out with the old, in with the new” had meaning, it is now. In just a few short weeks, we say adieu to 2020 and usher in 2021.

I imagine that most of us cannot wait until the ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of the new year; 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging and devastating years in recent memory.

Last January, we were informed by the World Health Organization that a deadly new coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, China. In a matter of months, the virus has spread around the globe to more than 67 million people, resulting in more than 1.5 million deaths. To date, our own country has reached nearly 15 million cases resulting in more than 282,000 deaths.

So many other events this past year have brought us lower and lower: The COVID-19 lockdowns that destroyed businesses and left many without work. The police-involved killings of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The peaceful protests that were followed by riots and destruction. The political unrest that fractured families and friendships.

And now, after the November presidential election, the polarization continues. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have their hands full to unite a frayed nation.

So how do we hold onto hope that the depressing events of 2020 will fade into the past, yielding good things for the future?

I wish I had the magical answer to that question, but three people—a professional golfer, a Harvard oncologist and a Grammy Award winner—offer some guidance.

Tiger Woods can give us a glimpse of hope for 2021 from the lesson he taught us last month. In the final round of the 2020 Masters tournament, he lost three balls in the water hazard and posted his worst score ever with a 10 at the par 3 12th hole. As I watched incredulously as his game seemingly self-destructed, he somehow found the mental strength to finish the remaining six holes with five birdies and a par. It was truly remarkable. He completely let go of that catastrophic hole and persevered with focus and resilience to accomplish something that very few of us would ever think possible.

Jerome Groopman, an author, professor and physician, offers us another lesson that hope for the future is possible. In his acclaimed book “The Anatomy of Hope,” he writes about his cancer patients who stayed optimistic—and how their faith and hope made a positive difference in their outcome. Groopman writes that hope has changed his own practice of medicine: “We are just beginning to appreciate hope’s reach and have not defined its limits; I see hope as the very heart of healing.”

Tracy Chapman, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, said it best in her hit song “New Beginning:”

The whole world’s broke and it ain’t worth fixing / It’s time to start all over, make a new beginning / There’s too much pain, too much suffering / Let’s resolve to start all over.”

Reuven H. Taff retired in August after serving as rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento since 1995.

“Out with the old, in with the new” suggests that we all need to move forward. And to move forward, we must purge, release and let go of those troubling things in the past. After all we have been through in 2020, let us resolve to make 2021 that new beginning.

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