Guest Op-Ed: No Eraser for 2019, But Redemption in 2020

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Will we be the same human beings in the new year? Will this year be different? Will humanity change? Along with 2020 comes the hope and yearning for a more peaceful human race. How do we do try to heal from the tragedies of 2019, but not forget?

Old Year

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o’ lang syne!” Why do people belt out this tradition song on December 31 at midnight? “Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish limerick about past relationships. My take—we are to consider and contemplate on whether we want to remember ruptures of past friendships and to repair or not to repair.

The year of 2019 is gone forever. Those 365 days cannot be undone or changed. No rewind button on mistakes. No magic wand to make the past disappear.

What Would We Erase?

Mass shootings. In Dayton, Ohio, nine victims died and 17 were wounded. Twenty-two victims died at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August. In Virginia, 12 victims died and 4 were wounded. We would erase death, trauma, and tragedy. Family and friends would not fall to their knees in anguish. Americans would not mourn with despair.

FEMA lists Disaster Declarations for USA by state for 2019. We would erase typhons, cyclones, hurricanes, tropical storms, massive floods, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, blizzards, sizzling heat waves, raging wildfires—which, in turn, would erase loss of lives and property damage.

Accidents. Freak accidents. Vehicle accidents. Yes, we would erase accidents if we could.

What Would We Erase in Our Personal Lives?

Sometimes we desperately want to erase a day, a week, a month, or an entire year. Acts done to us without our permission. Choices made that we regret. We cannot suck back in the words said in anger. Or unsay words we should have said. The tongue cannot undo a lie. The lips cannot un-tell a secret.

A spouse may want to erase a divorce and begin the marriage again. “There’s silence at the table/He wants to talk but he’s not able/For all the shame that’s locked him deep inside/Oh, but her words are the medicine/When she says they can begin again/And forgiveness will set him free tonight/As heaven touches earth.” Lyrics by Jason Gray to his song called “Every Act of Love.”

If only we could have a do-over day in 2019 and go back in time to make a change. What would we do differently? Would we erase or overcome? Would we become stronger in the broken places or erase what caused the broken places?

Change, Grace and Redemption

“That is what life is about. We do not get redos, but we do get second chances.”—Jeffrey Fry

According to a 2019 article in the Columbus Dispatch, Harley Blakeman, a former felon, graduated from Ohio State University with a business degree, and recently stated a website that helps companies connect with former criminals seeking employment. 

“God answers the mess of life with one word: Grace.”—Max Lucado

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. That’s the 8th step in the 12 Steps of AA. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. That’s the 10th step.

“Redemption isn’t giving a bank robber a job as a teller.”—Jane Velez-Mitchell

In this fallen world, sometimes we need to seek justice before we give mercy. And perpetrators deserve prosecution. Consequences are a reality when one chooses to harm another.

Alas, we cannot erase situations, happenings, or events in 2019. We cannot erase tragedy or trauma. We cannot erase mistakes.

But we can reflect on 2019 and become more aware, focus on change, give and accept forgiveness, renew hope, and make 2020 a better year.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].

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