2020: A year of lessons

Ben Smith

2020 finally came to a close. Many welcome the turning of the calendar in hopes of better fortune in the year ahead. My family’s year didn’t go how we planned, but how many years do? While I do not make New Year’s resolutions, I do try and take the lessons learned and apply them in the future.
The first lesson of 2020 is to never take things for granted. That sounds very cliché and it’s probably not something I should just now be learning at this stage of my life. However, this year really beat this lesson into me. We were 20 games into our season when COVID shut us down on March 12th. We were in first place in our conference, and I really would have liked to see how that ended. We’ve always told our players to play each day like it’s your last, but who really ever thinks that will happen? 2020 showed us anything is possible, and I know there are a lot of guys who wish they could get those last games back. Fortunately, most college athletes were given an extra year of eligibility. The high school kids are the real victims of the shutdown, since they can’t get the year back. My heart aches for those that weren’t able to complete their last season of high school sports.
The second lesson of 2020 is that the world can do without a lot of things. I’ve never thought that what I do is very important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, my job has importance, but we aren’t curing diseases. As a college baseball coach, I believe it is my duty to help prepare young men to go and make the world a better place. The competitive side of me hates to lose, but 2020 told me that it’s not the single most important aspect of my job.
There are far more important people in the world than coaches and athletes. 2020 taught me that we need to place more value in them than we do our entertainment.
I don’t necessarily believe in essential and nonessential workers. Every job is essential to the family who needs that income. However, can you imagine our world without doctors, nurses, and first responders? They are the real heroes of 2020. The world can do without athletes, actors, and musicians, but last year proved that our medical professionals and law enforcement are truly irreplaceable. We can also certainly do without politicians.
The third lesson of 2020 is to spend time doing what you love with the people you love. It’s no secret what I enjoy doing. I love my family, baseball, and the outdoors. Once baseball was taken away last year, I made a point to spend as much time with my family and friends in the outdoors as possible. We did things that I did with my family growing up and hadn’t had the opportunity to do it with my kids until 2020.
The final lesson of 2020 is to keep learning. Sometimes I get to thinking I know a little bit only to find out I know nothing. Learning shouldn’t stop with age. I learned and tried so many new things in 2020. I learned that if your family loves you that it doesn’t matter if anyone else does. I’ve learned that it’s OK to get down, just don’t stay there.
I will continue my trend of not making a New Year’s resolution in 2021, but I’m going to do my best to take what 2020 taught me and be better. For those who have had a rough year and are worried about the future, I once heard a quote that we can all live by, “It’s OK to have a pessimistic mind as long as you have optimistic boots.” My family and I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Ben Smith, a baseball coach and history teacher at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, is the nephew of Donna Fitzpatrick of Butler Street and Atmore. He is a husband and the father of three daughters. Ben’s website is pinstripestocamo.com.