The year I learnt to stop: 2020 in review

It’s funny how we construct time really. We place so much significance on a new year and all it has in store for us, as if awaiting the installation of a new update. And 2020 was no different, in fact it was extra special. The turn of a new decade became a sign of progress and marching towards the future. We had reached the years sci-fi films had once imagined. While we still may not have hoverboards or flying cars, we live in a world more connected than ever before. And of course, that hyper-connectedness would later show its vulnerability and stop the world in its tracks.

Stop and listen

I remember back in February, life was zooming by as it always did. Hot off the blocks with resolutions, plans and dreams, days were racing past and I suddenly found myself at the Justice Conference. Tasked with interviewing as many guests for the podcast as possible, I readied myself to work hard that weekend. And I did, but I also stopped.

Each one of those conversations became a moment where I was no longer rushing to the next thing, but instead I was fully present. Able to soak in the wisdom of people like René August, Robert Beckford and Eugene Cho, their words would later travel with me throughout the year. The Justice Conference was a powerful illustration of what can happen when we stop and listen to each other. When we open our ears and hearts to learn from others, our worlds become slightly bigger. I learnt then that if we want to change the world, we must listen to it first. Justice flourishes when we bring our perspectives together.

Stop and breathe

And then came the news. Even with the early warnings, I doubt few of us were prepared for what was to come. As the world gradually came to a halt and the streets emptied, normal life as we knew it, stopped. I’ll never quite forget waiting behind a man who was attempting to buy ten huge bags of rice. It was then that I knew the world was fundamentally changing. Thankfully panic buying eventually died down and we slowly grew familiar with this ‘new normal’.

No longer were days racing by, instead they grew longer as our worlds became smaller. Gone were the distractions of going to and fro, constantly travelling somewhere for something. We were forced to stop. While it wasn’t an easy adjustment, our new found pace gave us space to breathe. Something perhaps we all needed. In slowing down, many of us were able to reconnect with ourselves and learn lessons, both practical and spiritual. We learnt how to stay connected, while making space to be inspired by God’s purpose for us. Although lockdown was far from desirable, it did encourage us to stop and take stock of our lives.

Stop and be inspired

However, that lockdown experience is far from universal. While some enjoyed a change of pace, many struggled around the world. Even within the UK, Covid-19 shone a light on the many inequalities that we once skipped over. We thanked our key workers who tirelessly worked to meet our basic needs and many stepped up to the plate to keep the nation going. And when structural inequalities were exposed, individuals put forth a rallying cry to address them as a community. The Captain Tom’s and Marcus Rashford’s of this world inspired many to donate to good causes. Closer to home, our very own Emerging Influencers raised over £180,000 for people living in vulnerable communities. 2020 taught me that, together, we can make a difference.

Stop and shout

And 2020 saw the world come together like never before. Following the murder of George Floyd, #BlackLivesMatter became one of the biggest worldwide social justice movements in history. The shift in consciousness led to the acknowledgement of the very present racism alive in society today. And through this acknowledgement, many have cried tears of lament, challenged the status quo and started building towards a more just and equal future. While some timelines may have moved on, there are now countless more people fighting for racial equality and sharing resources to get there.

Throughout the year, people would continue to use their voices for many issues. Whether it was calling out the fast fashion industry, clearing up our rubbish problem, or raising our voices to let the government know that we have a responsibility to help others. 2020 showed that we no longer have to sit by while injustice happens in front of us. Instead we can raise our voices and be a part of the solution.

Stop and hope

As we come to the end of 2020, the pandemic continues to loom over us. Our future is uncertain, but there is hope. It’s easy to despair, but there’s plenty of good to celebrate too. Despite the divisiveness, the US election left us with someone who will hopefully collaborate to make the world a better place, as Joe Biden rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement. We look ahead to COP26 next year as world leaders respond to our climate emergency. And as vaccines begin to roll out around the world, we hope to establish a new normal. One where there is justice and equality for all.

Although 2020 was a year many will hope to forget, my prayer is that we remember its lessons. I hope we never return to our previous normal, but instead prophetically live out the just world we want to see.

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