In a nation divided by politics, economics and race, there is one thing upon which all Americans can agree.

That 2020 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, to paraphrase author Judith Viorst.

And 2021 can only be better, right?

Right?

Well, that’s the fond hope — not to say desperate wish — of several who responded to a question about the coming year.

Attleboro firefighter Paul Jacques is ready. “Looking forward to what the future will bring. No doubt 2021 will be a better year. Change, however small or large it is, will be a good thing. Every day above ground is a good day,” he said in an email, espousing a sentiment echoed by many, and not just locally.

Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, can perhaps afford to be optimistic. He writes in Forbes Magazine recently that “there is good news coming in 2021.” Citing the speed in developing vaccines against COVID-19, Gates believes that’s just one of multiple scientific developments people should be hopeful about next year.

Actor Johnny Depp, who lost a defamation suit and a coveted movie role this year, told the New York Post he hoped for “better days.”

Even in the British royal family, the heir to the throne and his wife were not amused by 2020, according to a magazine published in the UK. “Duchess Catherine and Prince William’s Christmas message on their official Instagram revealed that the couple are ‘wishing for a better 2021.’”

And a Foxboro kindergarten student, Parker Devine, came up with the idea for a wishing tree, which he then took to the Jaycees who liked it and the selectmen who approved it.

As of mid-week, the little evergreen near the Nativity scene on the Town Common had some two dozen glass ornaments filled with hand-written messages such as, “That the pandemic will soon be over.”

Thoughts from area residents

Several people who recently replied to a question posted on Facebook tended to be succinct.

Mike Cunha of Attleboro was less optimistic than some, writing “2021 isn’t going to be any better, most likely will be worse, unfortunately.”

Eric Gouck of North Attleboro had a very specific goal. “I hope to get off of the vehicle extended warranty call list in 2021.”

Jim Barry of North Attleboro, however, is ready for some generalized good news. “A better year WOULD be nice!!!”

Some of the posters’ desires were both personal and political.

John Mullis, who is retired and from Norton, predicted in an emailed response that “The COVID-19 will be defeated because of the actions of President Donald J. Trump.” And he spoke for more than a few posters to say, “My hope is that the USDOJ (the U.S. Department of Justice) will step up and investigate the corrupt Democrat party in several states and declare the election invalid!”

Other writers were yearning for a less contentious politics, however. Jacques, the Attleboro firefighter, wrote he was hoping for “Not only for some sort of normalcy, but for progression beyond all the negativity. That we as a society learned from it, (can) escape the rhetoric, and move forward together for the collective good of all people. It definitely can’t get any worse.”

Amy Joyce, a Boston resident and graphics designer, acknowledged that “2020 has been a very trying year. Politicians showed that they don’t care about the very people who they’re supposed to be working for and so many people are making it known that they don’t care about themselves or anyone else.”

While she’s looking forward to a change in Washington, “I do hope that people will stop being so angry, ignorant, careless, and rude,” she wrote in an email. “There is too much hate. There’s not enough caring about others ... I hope that after so much division, we can actually go back to being the United States of America in 2021.”

Donna Palmer, public health nurse in Norton who, like other healthcare workers, has been on the front lines of the pandemic over the past 10 months, agrees that the health crisis has exposed cracks in our familiar systems, but also something else.

“The very idea that a ZIP code is a determinant of health is something I hope we can work on in our future,” her email said, adding vaccinations will make for a safer world. But she added, “I am hopeful I will not forget the wonderful people I have come into contact with and all of the acts of kindness and generosity I have witnessed. I have seen many examples of people working together toward a common goal despite our differences. I am hopeful that we can continue to honor each other and see everyone as essential.”

The last word on the end of 2020 and the first on hopes for 2021 should perhaps belong rightly to Pastor David Meunier of the Plainville Baptist Church. Hope, after all is one of the key virtues toward which people of faith are encouraged to strive.

“To begin, I say that I have hope for the coming year. That for which I hope and desire is also what I pray for since I know that God is a God of hope and gives his children the desires of their hearts. And things that I hope for are indelibly connected to his word that he has given to the world.”

Tom Reilly can be reached at 508-236-0332 or treilly@thesunchronicle.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomreillynews.

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