“I am just numb. It seems hard to believe, but it’s real. Jimmy went into the hospital last week, and developed COVID-19 and pneumonia. He passed away on Thursday morning. Of all our class members, he had perhaps the best zest for life and was a friend to everyone. It’s just unbelievable. … I hate COVID and what it has done to all our lives.”

— Joey Bennett wrote of his friend and high school classmate who died from the virus at the age of 59; posted Dec. 11, 2020, on Facebook.

How do you begin to characterize 2020, a year that seemed to embody evil?

The sadness was overwhelming. The fear palpable. The struggles shattering.

Day after day, more bad news, more caging of our spirits.

Death came in the form of a deadly virus unknown until then, its name now spoken in households daily. It ripped the loves ones from our arms when we couldn’t even hold them, and left us to our anguish.

The plea of those soon to depart was whispered again and again, “Tell my family I love them.”

Love endures, but hatred sought to rival it this year. It was as though gasoline ran through the streets of towns and cities across America in 2020 — and hatred lit a match.

We couldn’t right our wrongs because we were too busy screaming them at one another. Wrong party, wrong color, wrong love.

The real wrongs — the mistreatment of others, the judgments, the threats, the infliction of pain both physical and mental — were unleashed upon victims young and old. Age-old problems that permeate society again festered.

It’s been all too much. Heartbreaking, really.

But the one endearing quality dwelling in the best of us — kindness — would not be snuffed. It was as prevalent as masks on faces in our year of despair, and it gave us hope.

Nurses and doctors comforted the dying when their families could not be with them, hand-holding the loved ones of others as they slipped from this life into the next.

Food bank volunteers worked to fill meal gaps for many who were unaccustomed to needing the help.

Performers unable to sing on stage knew their music could uplift us, so they began recording home “concerts” and posting them on the internet for all to hear.

People went out of their way to tell others with whom they were interacting that they were smiling beneath their cloth face coverings, unmasking their cloaked emotions. Even simple kindness is powerful.

We became more concerned with how others were coping in a world gone mad. We encouraged them with our words and our takeout orders.

“Stay safe” and “Be well” are now common salutations in our correspondence to family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances, even those we know only as names on the other end of an email.

We gained costly perspective in 2020. The important things separated from time-wasters like oil from vinegar.

For many of us, the year was the most challenging of our lifetimes. Some challenges will carry over into 2021. Let’s take the kindness with us, too.

Susan Duncan is the editor of the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Reach her at susan.duncan@newsandtribune.com.

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