love sign

What else is there to say about last year now that we are a week into 2021? Not much that has not already been said.

So here is a rearrangement of what are surely previously expressed thoughts in one of the thousands of year in reviews that have already been published. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, there are no new ideas but just recycling of the old. My best offering is a reflection of the year that likely mirrors every other one you have read.

While 2020 may be 12 months we all want to forget, it will likely stay lodged in many of our memories forever. It is easy to home in on negative aspects of the year – a novel virus unleashes itself and an ensuing global pandemic spawns a series of events that would have once been difficult to imagine.

Suddenly, we weren’t supposed to touch our faces. Electronic signs on highways flashed instructions to “stay home” and “keep your distance.” Schools and businesses closed, then re-opened. Hair got long while toilet paper was in short supply. Phrases – social distancing, elbow tapping – were added to the lexicon. Learning left classrooms and entered homes. Old, infrequently muttered words – quarantine and self-isolation – were spoken regularly. Love them or hate them, there were the masks.

This is all the so-called “new normal.”

Last year, it was difficult to write a story without mentioning the virus as it unfortunately had some impact on nearly every aspect of life. It is certainly a different world experiencing what is hopefully a “temporary,” not “new,” normal.

My September start date at the Culpeper Times presented some difficulties in compiling a year in review. I was only here for three months in 2020. What happened the previous nine months? I combed through old newspapers to answer the question. As I did so, something became abundantly clear: people here care about their neighbors.

While the world changed, the generosity and goodwill displayed by Culpeper residents in 2020 was nothing new. Churches, non-profit organizations, government, individuals and law enforcement agencies offered food, clothes, gifts and assistance for those in need. This was just a continuation of long-established practices – Culpeper’s “old normal.”

Hopefully, every aspect of life will soon return to the old normal when school buses are fully loaded and stickers on grocery store floors aren’t telling us where to stand. And those masks…maybe those masks will disappear.

While vaccines have arrived, we will have to wait and see what happens in 2021. For those of us lucky enough to live in Culpeper, however, one bet is certain: If a helping hand is needed, you don’t have to look far.

In his final book, Kurt Vonnegut urged people “to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘if this isn't nice, I don't know what is.’”

There was plenty to complain about in 2020, no doubt about it. But upon perusing through those old newspapers and seeing how the community responded to the plethora of negative situations, I could not help but think ‘if this isn’t a nice town, I don’t know what is.’

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