• Emily Bennett

Dear ____,

"What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?

What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?

A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw – that it finally forces us to grow.

A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber.

A year we finally accept the need for change.

Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.

A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart.

2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all."

-- Leslie Dwight

It’s no mystery that the year 2020 has been filled with uncertainty, anxiety, struggle, and significant loss for everyone. We’ve had to endure trials and tribulations, negated milestones, lost celebrations, missing moments, limited time with family and friends, fights against microaggressions, racism, and so much more.

When I look at the world around me this year, today, I worry about my future children. I worry for their safety; a childhood meant to be innocent filled with disease, pain, hate, and grief. As someone in their early twenties, having a child in roughly the next ten years seems terrifying. I’ve had countless conversations with friends and peers about what that would look like; bringing a child into a world that resembles sending a child into war and how we could be selfish enough to be the ones to choose that life for them knowing what they’d be up against. For them to undeservingly enter into a world post-pandemic, in the midst of civil unrest, the battle against racism, political instability, sending them to schools where their teachers learn how to pack gunshot wounds as a part of their training, to endure the consequences of a global climate crisis, etc.. And after reviewing that short summary of struggles they will undeniably face, to logically decide what it would look like to instead protect our children— and therefore, potentially not to have them. A very serious and heavy conversation that has been had far too many times by far too many of us and which has brought us all great heartache and confusion.

I’ve always been one to sit with heavy moments. To take them in before speaking about them or writing about them, mainly to gain clarity and the ability to act with wisdom and grace rather than rushing into fear or doubt. I admit it seems strange that, in an unprecedented time, it has taken me so long to find words to write considering how impactful many of those days have been. But now, after months of confusion and uncertainty, what seems the most pressing and most important thing to write, is not meant for me or anyone else walking on earth currently. Rather, to someone who doesn’t yet exist, someone who may not ever exist, but someone who deserves to know the truth about the place we all call home. This is for my future child.

Dear ____,

Of all the things I’ll get to do and be in a lifetime, being a wife and a mother has always been at the center of every goal, acknowledging how everything I do in these years will be stories, lessons, and light I will pass on to you in your years, with the hope that you decide to be kind, loving, and resilient. These years I hold without you, act as the prologue to the years I'll hopefully spend with you. My wish for you is that you will hope without hesitation, love without restraint, encourage strangers and friends alike, accept and include first, stand up for others no matter the cost, act courageously and cautiously when necessary, feel everything twice over, forgive unforgivable mistakes, respect people, animals, and nature, and most certainly to lean into faith as closely as you can.

We haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet, but I want you to know how excited I am to get to know you and to lead you closer to God as you grow and become your own person. Most of my life up to this point has been spent learning about myself, focusing on my education and future career, building and maintaining relationships, traveling to new places, and above all, growing in my faith. All these experiences that make up life before you, but many decisions made because of you. How incredible you must be to already have had such a strong hold on my heart and impact in my life without even taking your first breath.

With the uncertainty and pain present in the world, the purpose of this letter is to tell you about the year 2020—the year the world changed for everyone and what that means for you. While I am unsure of what exactly the world will look like for you when you're born and again when you’re my age, I want to prepare you as best I can for the realities you will face. I want to be sure you know what you’re up against. I want you to be unquestionably confident in the truth about people and the planet. I want you to understand why things are the way that they are. I want you to live your life differently because of it. I want you to always remember “[not to] be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” – L.R. Knost.

I want you to remember that you have the power to make a difference, that the world is mostly good, new generations provide new hope, and love always wins. And always, to remember that the truth remains the truth whether the majority of the people believe in it or not. Most people may look skeptically towards your optimism, think you’re foolishly blinded by the colors you see in the darkness, but the hopeful and optimistic—the ones who see the good and give faith a fighting chance—are the ones who will save it.

While I hope there will never be a year as heavy and discouraging in your lifetime as this year has been for many of us, I hope you take these words to heart and remember, no matter how bad it gets or how helpless the world seems, the light inside of all of us remains.

When the global pandemic hit, it affected everyone. It wasn’t just one small corner of the world, it touched the lives of people on opposite ends of the earth, with different ethnicities, languages, religions, cultures, societies, and beliefs. It didn’t care if you were blue, black, green, white, striped, or polka dotted; if you believed in one God, many Gods, or no God; if you ate fast food for dinner or fished it out of the sea; if you lived slowly or fast paced; if you spoke English, French, Spanish, or Sign Language—it didn’t care, it affected everyone. It made the world smaller and gave great discernment into the fact that we all shared one home regardless of any surface level differences we’d previously given power to. It helped people to forget that they were in opposition and rather gave opportunities for unlikely neighbors and entire nations to come together and help each other. Fear and anxiety were common feelings amongst many and nearly everyone lost someone they knew and loved to the virus. Major celebrations, graduations, weddings, and birthdays either didn’t exist or looked far different from the way we used to do them. Streets were no longer filled with early morning commuters and airports became ghost towns. There was no hugging or holding hands in public, smiles were covered by facemasks, and you were expected to stay at home for months without seeing friends or family. Stores shut down, people lost jobs, economies crumbled, hospitals became overcrowded, and grandparents and parents started to die. It looked a lot like the end of the world, and quite frankly, it was.

The end of the old world.

What happens when disaster strikes and things crumble is no doubt devastating, but may you always keep looking for the light that comes after the storm hits. Ruin is a clean slate, a restart, a new chance to be better than we were, a chance to rebuild with stronger more inclusive and creative ideas and beliefs. What happened after the first month was that people became better—they started making and hanging encouraging signs in their neighborhoods, they spent more time outside and made more memories with the ones they loved at home. They exercised more often and found new hobbies. They bought groceries for their older neighbors who were more at risk, read and learned new knowledge, left nice messages on each other’s driveways in chalk, sang on their balconies and played music for each other. Front line workers showed up without fail, working nonstop, and cities erupted in applause at each shift change. Television networks organized music nights with famous artists to raise money for organizations fighting the virus and its affects directly. The earth started to heal—the canals in Venice became so clear you could see the bottom for the first time in decades, the smog lifted so much in India you could see the Himalayan mountain ranges, dolphins returned to the coasts, air pollution was at an all-time low, wildlife came out from hiding, and mother nature could finally breathe.

Several months have passed and the virus is still here, people still covered by facemasks, yet able to recognize a friendly smile by the sweet squint of the eyes. It is different and it is hard, but as you will one day see, humans are resilient and adaptable. I can’t think of a time that despair came, and we went with it. People will disappoint you of course, let you down and forget to say sorry, but they will also surprise you and show up for you when you least expect it. They are by nature, kind, and empathetic, compassionate and strong— made in the image and likeness of God. There will always be hate, poverty, sickness, and death, but never do they take away from the good that is so prevalent in our world. And if there is ever a time you can’t find the good, be the good and share it with another.

What I want you to embody is love. No matter what you choose to do in life, what sports you play, what school you go to, what career path you take, who you love, how you dress, what you volunteer for, may you always choose to do them with love. Our nation, and the world, even in a time of massive loss that transcends us all, is still fighting for basic human rights. Death by disease and death by racism. A time where the fight against oppression and police brutality has erupted following the horrendous murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many other black individuals.

As my child, you will be taught that kindness is mandatory in every situation, every human is equal and deserving of equal opportunities, humankind is the only race, judgement is not yours to give, and that you are privileged without doing anything to deserve it. You will be taught to be an ally for all those who are told they don’t have a voice and you’ll hand them your microphone that you inherited. You will love your neighbor as you love yourself and know that empathy and understanding is always the right thing to do. You’ll be courageous in your faith and optimistic in the fight for change. You’ll be apart of the solution to create a more inclusive and diverse world that protects and supports everyone because we are all more alike than we are unalike. You’ll find the helpers when the world looks bleak and you’ll look in awe at your place in the stars rather than your place in the dirt. You’ll lend a helping hand, a listening ear, an open mind, and a clean shoulder for anyone who needs it. You’ll learn new ideas, challenge old ones, and courageously seek out the truth. You’ll defend the weak, put words into action, learn how to agree to disagree, correct unloving behavior, grow through trials, and follow the light inside of you. And you’ll believe in a better world than the one you were born into. Love is the only way anything will ever get done and you will be loved tremendously in the hope that you share it with the world and do just that.

In the midst of the pandemic and civil unrest, I watched a space flight that marked the first commercial space launch with passengers on board and thought of you. I listened to former astronauts talk about their time in the International Space Station, sharing meals with folks from numerous countries as they looked out the window at the land turning below them. How tremendous the world becomes when we all work together. I watched as the rocket took off and left the atmosphere in an orange blaze. I followed it past the clouds and above the earth, seeing the world turn below them, so peaceful and tranquil. How beautiful and blue, silent and calm, and again, I thought of you.

What this year has shown us, is that people are people and that you should care for all of them. The pandemic, while devastating and unprecedented, embodies just that—everyone. One planet, 7 billion people, all affected without question. Because we’re all the same. We live and breathe the same air and are guided by the same principles whether we realize it or not. And if you ever question that truth, read the following, then read it again:

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

I think of how unfathomable it is that in a universe so grand, we have yet to find another planet like ours. I think how lucky we must be to be here now. I wonder if maybe life has had time to find its purpose before and didn’t make it, or that it did. And regardless of that, I hope we are doing our part to find it here, now. I am sorry that the world it such a messy place to live in and that past generations haven’t always gotten it right. I’m sorry that sin, darkness, and hate exist and I’m sorry they’ve made me question if I should bring you into the world. As I said before though, change comes with new birth and often the greatest legacy a generation leaves behind, is the new one.

My generation has been labeled as being lazy, self-indulgent, self-obsessed, and is thought to have very little to contribute to the world. While these labels have been placed on our generation to infantilize, discredit and instill distrust, we rise and fight for a better tomorrow. Most of us know that our beliefs and values are not universal and are open to experiencing and learning about other cultures and perspectives. We support growth and evolvement of human beings and their rights. We stand up for ourselves and others by organizing protests and participating in tough conversations. We are the most connected generation to exist through the use of social media platforms. We find compromise to be important in politics rather than associating with a color for a political party. We strive to not only do well in the world, but to do good. We are well-educated and, for the most part, well-informed in a variety of fields. We worry about our futures, climate change, finances, equal employment opportunities, racism, sexual-harassment, and many other topics that impact all people. The world that we live in now is not one most young people are proud of, which is why we take moments of change so seriously—for ourselves and for our kids.

By the time you get here, I pray you live in the world we’re currently fighting for. That the dreams have turned into reality and you become a witness to the joy it’s brought. People smile more, the earth becomes an oasis, and peace isn’t such an abstract concept.

It’s a small world, and you will make up only a small part of it. But change begins there, in yourself, your home, your neighborhood, and eventually it gets bigger and bigger until the entire world is touched by the ripple. So, while you may wonder how impactful your choices may be, know they have the power to reach the ends of the earth indirectly. Know that the light inside of you is yours to give away and give it away generously. I’ll be rooting you on and believing in the truth-- the good that is you.



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