They don’t call it a “news cycle” for nothing. As surely as the minute hand winds down the waning moments of 2009, headlines bombard us with a now familiar theme for every New Year’s week: The Recap. This time, we’re reviewing not only the year that ends at midnight Friday, but the decade as well — a period one of the newsmagazines is calling the “Worst Decade Ever.”
Decade-in-review stories interest me because I’m afflicted with a memory like Swiss cheese. Pointing and clicking my way through the headlines, I’m saying, “I remember Kelly Clarkson,” and “Oh yeah … Halle Berry’s Oscar” and “Has it been that long since the wardrobe malfunction?” Time flies like a bustier at a Super Bowl, doesn’t it?
Of course, there were seminal occurrences during the past 10 years that have redefined our country and our culture, and those remain with us as current events. Richard Hatch’s victory on the first season of “Survivor” gave us “The Bachelor” and “Jon and Kate” and the recent ill-fated “balloon boy” attempt at celebrity.
The Facebook guys gave us “friend” as a verb and teenagers with bad grades.
Those hanging chads of 2000 gave us a generation of Bush-haters and a lucrative career for Al Gore in climate change.
The inconceivable and surreal tragedy of 9/11 gave us the war on terror, now being fought by 18-year-old men and women who were still wide-eyed children on the day it began.
Unlike the folks who bring us the news stories that make the annual recap list, most of us don’t mark time in headlines. We’re too busy wiping down the high chair or walking someone to kindergarten or taking a son to his first driver’s ed class or visiting college campuses to find that elusive “right fit.”
To be sure, we listen to the headlines while we’re figuring out how to cook chicken breasts when we have no cream of mushroom soup, and while looking for the form for the field trip and running up to the grocery store to get the bag of dog food we forgot.
Some of those news stories are pretty funny (a teen who, in 2005, sued to wear a Confederate flag prom dress) but not as funny as muting the TV so we can listen to our sister’s story of shopping for a bathing suit or how she talked her way out of a speeding ticket (or didn’t).
Most of the news stories that make the recap reel are downright worrisome. Joblessness and failing banks and foreclosure rates weigh on our minds. Still, they’re not as worrisome as a cousin’s CT scan or the cancer diagnosis for the teacher at the high school. We worry more about the things that confront our loved ones – the people we pray for every night – like finding a job close to home, or saving a struggling marriage, or carrying a difficult pregnancy to term.
This decade included stories about the deaths of former presidents and a pope, a famous pop star and a few noteworthy politicians — deaths that prompted days of somber coverage of funerals and burials and memorial services.
But for most of us, the decade included deaths of much greater significance. The loss of parents and children, friends and neighbors — some to tragic accidents, some in heart-rending submission to disease, some to senseless violence, some in heroic acts of selflessness. We grieved and comforted, made casseroles and wrote sympathy cards. We did what people do to move through pain.
I don’t know if folks believe it was the “worst decade ever.” For most of us, the past 10 years brought all the happiness and heartache that constitutes a real life.
It’s only the “worst ever” if you lose faith in the God who gives us life, along with the hope and the freedom to make each day its own story.