As I sat down to write my final article of 2021, I began to put together a list of the blessings I personally have experienced in the past year and to invite you the reader to do the same. However, the more I wrote, the more disingenuous it began to feel. Not because I am ungrateful for my many blessings, I certainly am not that, but because celebrating wins during a time of such hardship and suffering for so many simply didn’t feel right to me.

That is when I decided to change coarse and express what I am really feeling at this time. If I’m honest, 2021 has felt too much like 2020 in all of the worst ways. Personally, I know so many people whose lives were turned upside down this past year. Lives, marriages, jobs, relationships, and businesses, are just some of the things people close to me lost in 2021. I’m sure many of you have similar stories of loss that have come in the wake of the pandemic.

While 2020 certainly saw its fair share of challenges, it also saw its fair share of private and governmental actions to help counterbalance those difficulties. Financial assistance was provided to those in need, medical breakthroughs were made to reduce the threat the virus posed and the fear it produced, and technological innovations helped make us all feel a little more connected even while in isolation.  2021, on the other hand, seemed to present us with just as many hardships, but far fewer positives to focus on. That’s why it should be no surprise that, according to the CDC, we experienced significant numbers of people struggling with addiction and mental illness this past year.

With all this being said, my goal this week was to write a hopeful and optimistic sendoff to the year that was. So, with all of the pain and suffering that exists, what message can I give that is hopeful? My message for you is simply not to give up. No matter how bleak things may seem right now, it never stays that way forever unless you give up believing it will improve.

As a people, we have experienced terrible wars, financial collapses, social injustices and unrest, and even human atrocities. Through all of those difficult times, it could have felt like life would never get better, but it did every single time. Sometimes it took a while, and sometimes what replaced the bad times wasn’t exactly the same as what had come before them, but in all instances, things improved and they will this time too.

The story of Christmas is the story of hope. Not for what has already happened, but for what will happen in the future. That is what I propose we all do over the coming weeks and months. Do not dwell on where we are, but where we will be. There is much to be optimistic about. Regardless of what our current situation looks like, we must force ourselves to see past our present circumstances to what could be in our future. In other words, H.O.P.E (Hold On Pain Ends)