Putting a Face on 2020

Jigsaw puzzles, game boards and other old-fashioned entertainment emerged as we quit running to this and that. Gardens were planted. Quarantined at home, bakers began furiously kneading and shaping dough. Do-it-yourselfers found their way to hardware stores. Pet shelters had a run on four-legged comfort. RV sales skyrocketed and parks filled with campers and picnickers. Socks may have even been mended!

Even as agriculture’s supply chains shuddered, a side benefit came in the way consumers gained a clearer picture of where food comes from. Local farmers worked diligently to set up important networks to capture value and find sales outlets.

As our true hair colors came shining through, we suddenly had newfound respect for every service provider. Parents and grandparents called into service as teachers got a first-hand look and appreciation for the role of educators.

Nothing in my lifetime has touched every person on the planet like COVID-19.


My own mother recently lamented the state of current events: “Things will never be the same.”

Hardly a one of us hasn’t uttered a good riddance to 2020 and wondered aloud how long it will take to put this year aside and move forward.

To gain perspective, I sought counsel from Benjamin Austic, a pastor, farmer and agronomist, from Kirksville, Missouri. Specifically, I asked him if we’d lost a year of our lives to this virus.

“From a country pastor’s perspective, it is NOT lost. I think 2020 will be burned in our memories,” he predicted. “We will remember the fewer interactions we had with one another more than the many interactions we would have had in a normal year.”

Austic even wonders if this year will be the modern-day equivalent of the Great Depression for the generations of people going through it.

“Hugs and handshakes that were once casual have become intimate acts. Physical touch is now almost alarming and occurs only with permission — generally within the context of a close relationship,” he said.

While these factors may not change for some time, technology has allowed us to maintain some form of relationship and that trend is likely to continue.

The marginalized people in the community are those most at risk, though, he noted. “For almost a year, ministers, chaplains and volunteers have not been allowed to visit jails, nursing homes, group homes for the disabled, or hospitals. Once paused, these programs are difficult to get started again.

“It’s going to take a focused effort to get these going again,” he said.

There will be other pain too. In my town, a local establishment where many farmers meet for breakfast or a brew is currently for sale. Other businesses have shuttered permanently. Such closings provide a reality check to those of us who have had stable income and employers tolerant of dogs and children zooming into conference calls.

When DTN/Progressive Farmer blogger Tiffany Dowell Lashmet found herself stressed and more than a little grumpy from balancing work from home, toddlers, family and life this year, she started a gratitude journal. It was a simple habit that changed her perspective and put a different look on a difficult time. (https://www.dtnpf.com/…)

Brown is used to helping around the farm, but when COVID started canceling school activities, he found fieldwork to be a therapeutic distraction — one that he understands many others are not afforded.

“I had a job. I had purpose. I was surrounded by family who care for me and that I like working with,” he said.

Brown intends to head to Illinois College in the fall of 2021 to study agriculture business. He has come to view the extra time to spend in the field this year as a good sneak peek at what working with family will be like when he finishes his college education.

Austic encourages others to think of life as an adventure. “Like all good adventures, there are villains for every hero, and no story is interesting without a crisis.

“Loneliness and isolation are the crises of our time and COVID-19 is the villain. Be the hero. Don’t be the victim. Fight the good fight. Treasure your tribe. Be brave and don’t lose heart,” Austic said.

Faith puts a new face on the future called hope.

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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