Years That Ask, Years That Answer

“There are years that ask the question and years that answer,” Zora Neale Hurston wrote. I’ve always loved this quote, and I think she’s right. Seems to me 2020 was a year that asked questions, so many questions, and left many things unanswered.

As last year wound down, I noticed friends posting on social media that they couldn’t wait to celebrate New Year’s 2021 and put the woes of 2020 behind them. I remember thinking how arbitrary it seemed to think that 2021 would be different from 2020. I shared their hope but understood it was not inevitable.

Well, the calendar turned to 2021, vaccines soon became available, and I glimpsed a prick of light at the end of the tunnel.

In early March I got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and had a funny feeling. Not muscle aches, which would hit me a couple days later, but the glimmering possibility of normal days.

As I sat in Walgreens for the post-injection waiting period, Whitney Houston belted out “I Believe in You and Me” from the speaker right above my head. It’s one of Whitney’s songs that’s pretty much impossible to sing along with – all I do is ruin it. I closed my eyes, let her voice wash over me, and thanked God for Ms. Houston and messenger RNA.       

I left Walgreens that chilly, gray afternoon with the feeling that we had turned a corner. This would be a year that answered, a year that offered closure to a dark period. A few months later, my family and I went on vacation and ate in restaurants without masks. I swam in a crowded Orlando pool without a care. That was then.

Last Sunday morning before church, I paged through the newspaper with item after item about the highly contagious delta variant. Ignorance may be bliss, but this was deja vu. It seems we’re moving backwards, and unlike my beloved Whitney Houston, I no longer believe in you and me.

Not you specifically, reader, but my belief in the general good will of others is diminished to say the least. These days, I continue to trust God and believe in a handful of people.

Here we are nearing the last quarter of 2021. Maybe it will turn out to be a year that answers, just not the kind of definitive, pandemic-ending answers I’d hoped for. And so, despite my dim outlook, I’ll cling to this answer by St. Julian of Norwich that transcends the calendar: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”