2020 was a few days old when I was still searching for my word for the new year ahead. I like to search for words that become motivators instead of forcing their arrival into my life. So as each new day passed, I just listened for my word to make itself known.

Then it happened. The word “gather”. That was my word for 2020! It presented itself like a new book. The cover was highly anticipated, the story inside was going to be exciting and challenging, and for some strange reason I felt like it was going to make me uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable that forces me to grow.

I had no clue it would make others uncomfortable too.

So without any delay, I began planning a Super Bowl party. We’re not really a sports family. We love being outdoors and active, but no one I live with has a favorite team and we definitely have never owned any sports swag.  Our Super Bowl party invites said something like…

We are the most neutral NFL house in the county, so come on over for food, drinks and a place to gather. Go team!

Our home was filled with friends, kids dropping corn chips on the floors, and neighbors. It was a great kickoff to embracing my word. It felt so right.

That was the last party we hosted and the last big gathering inside a home that we’ve been to in 2020. In March things got really uncomfortable for our county, and basically the entire north east, when everything stopped. No one was gathering. It was not allowed.

But then we unofficially decided that as humans we need to come together. We need to see the nonverbals on our faces when we talk. We crave connection. It’s in the fabric of our beings to gather together. So, we began reinventing ways to come together.

It’s August, and I have realized the word gather is still my word for 2020. We have been challenged by creating new ways of gathering. We are craving ways to still be connected while staying apart. Our lives have embraced the value to gather in ways that might have been totally missed prior to rules about social distancing. We are made to be in community. We are made to stay socially connected. We thrive when we gather.

I had no idea that my word for 2020 would become the launching pad for innovation in the way we stay human during times like these. We are going to make it through this time of false isolation, because we have adapted to new ways of gathering.

They are more pure and intentional, the times together while still being apart, are cherished in ways that words can’t describe. We are made to gather, so we will. Our ability to come together, even while distancing is an example of the adaptability of the human condition. Our need to be a part of each other’s lives has sparked innovative ways to gather while staying a part.

Who would have imagined that here, in 2020, we are being forced to reimagine something we have been doing for centuries? Gathering together isn’t ending, it’s just repurposing our innate need to be connected.

My word for 2020 was and is gather.  I’m embracing all the beautiful mess that this word has come to mean.