Annual Thanksgiving Reflections 2020

One of the many members of the TBG family I am grateful for (see my Thanksgiving reflections of yesterday for my business here), Mina Widmer, sent a group text to our team yesterday of a chalk rendering that I think captures all I feel about 2020 and the Thanksgiving spirit …

2020 has become a sort of cliché in pop culture – an embedded punchline about all that is bad.  From the tragic death of Kobe Bryant to the global pandemic that was COVID-19, anything bad that happens is “so 2020.”  The recent passings of Sean Connery and Alex Trebek and even Eddie Van Halen are all part of the 2020 narrative, one that obviously has more than just a little truth to it.  It’s been a tough year.

The heart of the pain in 2020 has been the restrictions around much of normal life, initially instituted for two weeks in mid-March to bend the curve of coronavirus case growth.  I am not going to spend my Thanksgiving reflections going negative, so my point here will not be to talk about policy merits and wisdom and scientific logic.  Let’s just say that whether one believes this year has been a beacon of policy wisdom from “the experts” and our elected leaders, are ground zero of management incompetence, or something in between, no one can deny that this year has posed even greater hardship on those who often already face the greatest hardship.  I include myself in the list of people who, all things being equal, have seen their 2020 inconveniences mean mostly an inability to use their fitness club or get a massage appointment.  But there is a list of people who have had their wallets and their spirits broken this year, generally by people like me who are not affected by the lockdowns – think tankers, government employees, or white collar folks who find Doordash, Peloton, Amazon, and of course, an abundant amount of simply not following their own rules at all, quite manageable.

I am more aware this year than any year in my adult life of my own struggles with empathy.  I have worked so hard for so long to create a better and more comfortable life for me and my loved ones, that maintaining a genuine heart for those who are still looking up at a more comfortable life has not always been intuitive.  As I did not even remotely come from a place of comfort and convenience, there is no excuse for this.  A never-fading memory of the challenges of struggle, anxiety, discomfort, insecurity, and all the rest ought to never leave me.  And 2020 has been the year that God has firmly reminded me of how incredibly difficult things are for many people, and how incredibly apathetic the vast majority of people are – even those (especially those?) who most claim to care for the under-privileged.  If 2020 has taught me anything, it is how little those who are most vocal on social media and most dressed in bumper sticker “virtue” epithets actually care (in action and worldview) for the cause of human flourishing.  2020 put an entire segment of society into abject poverty while the vast majority of society had their food delivered hands free and became more familiar with Slack, Salesforce, and Dropbox.  What is my point?

While all of this has given me greater gratitude for the comforts of my life and the life my family enjoys, it also has given me greater empathy for others – for those forgotten men and women who are but a number in the great social experiment of modern life.  COVID is going away, I assure you.  But the lesson I have learned this year about the tokenism that serves as a substitute for real social justice is going nowhere.  And I thank God for that.

I do, of course, thank God for Joleen, Mitchell, Sadie, and Graham.  My family is the love of my life, and I think being quarantined for part of the year with them revealed more about my own shortcomings as a husband and dad than it did anything else.  They each are truly unique, special, gifted, lovely, dynamic people, and their own independent personalities are more real to me now than before.  I love Joleen dearly, and look forward to hitting the 20-year mark in our marriage next year.  We’ll keep you posted!  =)  The kids are all growing up, and it is too cliché for me to say that I wish Graham was still a baby, but I do.  But anyways, I am rich in family, and that’s enough for me.

The Bahnsen Group has had its 19th consecutive year of record revenues and profits, and our expansion has been something I never thought possible.  It is my calling, and it is also made possible by (a) the real calling God gave to me from birth, and (b) the people who make up the organization, people I tell you more about it in yesterday’s Dividend Cafe.  I thank God for my clients, my colleagues, and the whole family and ecosystem that is The Bahnsen Group.  No greater blessing can man enjoy that to wake up with purpose – with telos.  I have telos coming out of my ears, every day.  Thank you, God.

I have so many loved ones and friends I am thankful for it would take all day to cover them all.  I so miss my “Reno family” – Colin, Monica, Brad, Vicki, Tate, Auden, Lucy – and love them all so very much.  True family.  I miss my brother and friend, Brian Harrington, dearly, and don’t believe a day that goes by that I do not think of him.  My best friends of ~25 years ago remain my best friends today – Aaron, Darin, Eric, Luis, Ryan and more – all different walks of life now, and all daily on my mind, my text, my social media, my book club, and most of all – my heart.  The Viva posse was robbed of our March Madness trip this year (I know, no complaining about first world problems in the COVID moment, but I really need that trip this year!), but to Neltz, Sull-dog, Bobby, Merv, James, JoeC, Scotty, and D – we are coming back stronger than ever this year.  It’s hard-four time.  Mike Dogg, join us (you are loved bro).

To my allies in the cause at National Review and Pacifica Christian and Acton Institute and Center For Cultural Leadership, Happy Thanksgiving.  Ours is not just “a righteous cause.”  It is “the righteous cause.”  If not us, who?  If not now, when?  Fight the good fight.  And do not tire or grow weary, or tomorrow we all die.

And to all who have made the decision to be happy, knowing that circumstances cannot ever determine one’s internal composition, I thank you for your decision.  Your infectious spirit of joy fuels me, and I will do my very best to reciprocate.  God has seen fit to give me a spirit of contentment, of joy, and of gratitude.  He has added to that gift with circumstances beyond my wildest dreams.  I see you all who, even in adversity, choose joy.  I commend you.  And I thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may we all finish 2020 with gratitude for this great country, for the blessings we enjoy and take for granted, and with anticipation of a 2021 that may provide better circumstances or worse ones, but can never take our joy.