Was This A Horrible Year?

Was this a horrible year?
Or was it the stepping stone to something more amazing?
And, can we know for sure whether it’s either or both?

These are the questions on my mind, during these last hours of 2017.

I can think back to this moment last year, and how it seemed like the world was on the verge of a terrible year. As if the *old* year was an innocent baby, and the new one was a narcissistic old man with a New York accent.

Yes, that turned out to be true. The reality of the Trump presidency —not the reality-tv he wants us to believe, the actual reality— is in some ways far worse than I could have imagined. Probably you too.

So, yes, it was a horrible year.

But so many incredible things happened during this year too. So many people stood up and spoke out in ways they had never done before. I found myself at protest after protest. Rally after rally. Sometimes, surrounded by the same beautiful clergy friends, and all the time surrounded by more and more PEOPLE.
Women.
Muslims.
Dreamers and the Latino/a community.
The LGBTQ community.
People standing up to racism and hate.
People organizing to VOTE and MOBILIZE.

My dear friend, Imam Omar Suelieman, said early in the year, at the Dallas Airport Protests, that he believed Donald Trump has awakened a sleeping giant.

And there were many many times where I believe he is right.

But it was a busy year too. I didn’t realize just how busy until somebody asked me. A member of our Staff Parish Committee at church, the committee that helps supervise me, asked me near the end of the year to quantify the number of times I’d been asked to participate in marches, rallies, seminars, etc….during this year.

I hadn’t done it until he asked. It was FOURTEEN.

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Fourteen times where the Dallas community invited me to show up and either speak or attend a rally or event. Even more that I turned down and could not attend, due to conflicts. Friends, that’s unprecedented. And I mention it not to brag, but to shine a bright light on what’s happening: People are standing up. People are speaking out. Here are some of my favorite pics of the year, reposted here at the end….

It seems to me people spent the first half of the year in the streets…marching, shouting….finding each other other, organically.

it seems to me people spent the last half of the year MOBILIZING.

I go to political events now, here in Dallas County, and I see dozens and dozens of new activists whom I’ve never seen before. I’ve visited “pop up groups” that didn’t exist a year ago. Friends, I mean TONS of mobilizing. That *has* to translate into some amazing positive good, it seems to me….

So, given all that…was it a horrible year?

Hell no, it wasn’t.

Not when you look at it from that perspective.

It’s corny, but maybe Dickens was right about the best and worst of times.

Maybe out of our heartbreak, fear, and sadness, new things are being born RIGHT NOW. New movements that will be, at least for a time, unstoppable.

In these last hours of the year, as I look back, it seems to me it was both heartbreaking AND inspiring.

I don’t think next year will be much different. Some bad crap that we can’t even fathom yet is likely gonna happen.

But at every turn, I was SO inspired by the PEOPLE this year….especially by YOUNG people…their passion….their enthusiasm….their activism.

I know none of that is going away in 2018.

My faith teaches me that good things come out of bad, like some unstoppable law of nature. I actually believe it’s a law of the spirit. My faith’s theology talks about death being redeemed in New Life. Or, as I like to say it, when you “follow your heartbreak” you find a new and deeper passion for your life. So many people did that in 2017. They didn’t allow their heartbreak to overwhelm them, they organized, and they showed up.

It inspired a song from me, called “Your Full Height,” which I will post links to in the comments. Seems like a pretty good song to remember, as the year turns….

I’m looking forward to seeing what the people will do next.

Despair and heartbreak aren’t going away any time soon.

But neither is that spiritual law that New Life comes out of death, and that Hope springs eternal in the hearts of the people.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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