Most of us are all too ready to close the book on 2020, a year marked by a global pandemic, economic crisis, racial tensions, and a painful, divisive election.
It’s a year that was filled with heartbreaking numbers that could easily rob us of hope.
First of course is the tragic toll of lives lost to COVID-19 – each more than a number, but a person with a name, a story, and loved ones left behind to mourn. There’s also the high number of people without jobs, and those killed or made homeless by wildfires and hurricanes.
But beyond the headlines, 2020 also has numbers that bring me hope and help me to see God’s blessings. And I’ll bet they are ones you may not have heard about.
Here are a few that I find most encouraging:
More family time: 75 percent of American parents witnessed a key moment in their child’s life. More time also means more family dinners. 78 percent of Americans regarded family meals as the high point of their day.
The additional time at home brought more stress and a logistical nightmare for many families, but it also allowed for the blessing of unexpected time with children, both youngsters and those who had already flown the nest.
I saw this in my own home. My near-constant travel was suddenly cut to zero.
For nine straight months I was able to tuck my daughters in bed every night – a joy I will always treasure.
More generosity: 56 percent of Americans volunteered or donated to charity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People were motivated, sometimes even while suffering financially themselves, to help. Giving Tuesday reported that number of donors and number of donations was the highest it has been in five years. A surge of generosity just when it’s needed most.
More creative connections: 124 million boxes of fresh food, dairy, and meat that went across the U.S. that connected farmers with hungry families.
The USDA Farmers to Families program leveraged food directly from farmers that otherwise would have spoiled due to restaurant shutdowns and changes to how people were shopping at the store. This USDA program connected groups across the county working with nonprofits in a way that met all needs and made sure food didn’t go to waste.
More faith: 24 percent of Americans say their faith has grown amid the pandemic. The crisis sent many people searching for hope. For example, 1.7 million people gave their lives to Christ through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s online ministries – twice as many as in 2019.
That reflects what I saw in my own interactions this year: A Zoom call could go from weather chit-chat to Jesus in record time.
More faith in action: Even with their doors closed to services, U.S. churches didn’t cease being the church, and they partnered with humanitarian organizations to meet the overwhelming need this year.
For example, World Vision partnered with over 130 churches to provide Fresh Food Boxes for struggling families. Each church represented 10 to 12 other churches and communities, enabling us to reach 6.4 million people.
Convoy of Hope worked with churches to deliver 100 million meals. And in some of the world’s hardest-hit countries, 205,845 pastors and faith leaders have teamed up with World Vision to spread simple preventative measures to keep people healthy and free of COVID.
Many of these leaders joined us during the Ebola epidemic to help with prevention measures; now in this public health crisis they’re using innovative ways of reaching people, like WhatsApp.
These numbers are just a small glimpse into why I’m hopeful as the calendar turns.
I believe 2020 laid bare what matters most in life: faith, family, creativity, and generosity.
These forces for good are even more critical than ever in 2021. We’ll need the hope of those positive numbers – and the people behind them – to tackle the massive need in the year ahead.
Whether it’s healing division, helping families whose finances have taken a hit or preventing the global number of people facing extreme poverty from climbing for the first time in more than 20 years, I pray we’re up for the challenge. And I believe as a nation, we will be.
Edgar Sandoval Sr. is president of World Vision U.S. Follow him on Twitter @ EdgarSandovalSr.