Earlier this week, on a day typical of late December, I took a long walk around our town with my constant canine companion, Maggie. On the way home, we walked up busy Germantown Avenue, stopping to talk with others enjoying the brisk weather, window shopping, and taking time for Mags to properly greet all her four-legged friends and her many two legged admirers.

The store windows along the avenue were still bedecked in their holiday trappings, making a last- ditch effort to lure today’s walkers into their shops for the post-holiday sales.

Our walk took much longer than usual…admittedly I’m a window-shopping rock star – and Maggie has a lot of friends. As we strolled by a little gift shop, the wording on a tiny notecard in the crowded shop window caused me to pause for a few minutes of reflection. Beautiful, I thought, and we continued on our way. But as we were almost home, I found myself still thinking about that card’s message, contemplating its unquestionable relevance as we bring this crazy year to its end.  I felt I had to have that card and I also felt I wanted to share its message with you.

So Mags and I retraced our steps back to Windfall…that lovely gift shop. Before going inside, I took the above photo of the card as it was displayed in the window.

The measure of a year, it reads, is in the ways we have learned to love.

I have no idea with whom these words originated but as I walked out of the store with my little treasure, I found myself filled with a sense of relief. These words…the ways we have learned to love…had instantly allowed me to validate the year I had considered wasted.

Returning home, I immediately sat and began this post, attempting to explain to you the impact this simple message has had on me. I’ve been despairing – you’ve heard me – for months there has been little for us to celebrate. There’s been deep loss and sadness, and the future remains uncertain still. Yet here, on this modest notecard is a prescription for reframing the worth and perhaps, the significance of these last months.

If I measure these days in how much I have learned – or re-learned – to love, then it has been time well spent. I am thinking of how many instances I have witnessed total strangers giving of themselves, reaching out to each other, and I have learned love. I recall images of all the first responders risking their precious lives to save others, and I have learned love. I consider all the volunteers at the small non profits that have popped up to meet the needs created by these times, and I learned love. And from the protesters crying out for the rights of the vulnerable, I have learned love.

Closer to home I have felt how deeply my children feel for Bob and me in the way they have ensured we are safe, and I love. I see them with their families, sheltered, adapting, enjoying if not quite relishing, their “pods” and I love. And I think of my husband of 55 years, knowing we, too, have been drawn even closer during this time, and I love.

So, as I measure 2020 given this profound touchstone, it becomes clear that it has not, thankfully, been a year wasted. For this conclusion, I am ever grateful to the anonymous writer of these words. I am thankful that Maggie and I took that walk. And I am beholden to the shop owner for providing me the opportunity to re-think how my time has been spent.

In closing, the following song from the Broadway musical, Rent, comes to mind, reminding us to measure our lives in the smallest amounts – in the ways we use each year’s 525,600 minutes.

Seasons of Love

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure? Measure a year?

In daylights,
In sunsets,
In midnights,
In cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love…
Seasons of love…
Seasons of love…

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that she cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died

Its time now to sing out though
The story never ends
Let’s celebrate remember a year in a life
Of friends

Remember the love…
(Oh you gotta remember the love)
Remember the love…
(Oh yeah, its a gift from up above)
Remember the love…
(Sing out, give out, measure your life
In looooooove…!)
Seasons of love…
Seasons of love…

Happiest, Safe, Healthy and Peace-filled New Year to all my MOL friends! May each of our 525,600 minutes teach us love.