Who knew that a simple box covered in brown paper with a hand drawn picture of a pile of poop on it could be so inspiring?

This final Homefront column of 2020 was headed toward being kind of a downer. I started down the path of summarizing the year’s unprecedented challenges — deadly global pandemic, bizarre election, social uproar, devastating riots, natural disasters — all those things that made 2020 what it was. I was rambling toward the brink of despair when a phone call from my daughter upended that whole morose morass (gloomy mess) and set me on a more hopeful path.

She invited my husband and me to join their family for New Year’s Eve. Among the evening’s activities will be a ceremonial burning of their “2020 Poop Box.” Like you just did in your mind, I asked, “What’s a Poop Box”?

She explained she made a box with a slit in the top and covered it with brown paper so there’s no way to open it. Her artistic daughter drew “2020” and a pile of poop on the side of it. “I like writing to release what’s inside. It’s good for the kids too. So we’re writing down on slips of paper all the crappy things that happened this year and putting them in the box,” she said. They plan to burn the box on New Years’ Eve in their fire pit. “Our family just needs a fresh start, a visible, tangible new beginning. We’ll burn it. It’s gone. We start over,” she said.

The box is already nearly full. Their family faced a couple of things this year that rivaled COVID. Now those “crappy things” are on paper slips, waiting in the box to go up in flames. It’s been very cathartic, she said.

When my son got wind of her invention, he told her, “That’s brilliant. You need to post that because a lot of people will want to do that.” So she did. Within hours, the comments were piling up.

There’s something powerful about writing down grievances. When we uprooted our young family 25 years ago to move to our present home, they did not take the change well. My husband and I endured months of their complaints and whining. Finally one evening, we gathered them up for a “Pity Party.” I acted as scribe while they poured out every objection and gripe they had about the move. We covered three whole pages (single spaced) before they started winding down. After that evening, the whining subsided, the complaints began to be self-addressed and they started to call this place home. They had been heard, their concerns were validated and they finally moved forward.

But 2020 will require more than a mere list. It really does need to go up in flames.

In anticipation of adding my slips to the box, I started my list: All summer plans cancelled. No hugging. Zoom meetings for church. A wimpy Thanksgiving. Not being able to hug my mom (who lives in an elderly care center) since last March. Cherishing toilet paper. Hands dried up from sanitizer use. Door ditching Christmas gifts. Missing grandkids’ visits. Wearing masks. Avoiding people who don’t wear masks.

I think we should also shove a couple of fireworks into that box before we light it, get some real satisfaction from watching it explode into flames, and wave bye to 2020’s “poop.”

And then ... what? Well, we actually stand at a really good starting place right now. It’s hard to imagine the new year being any worse than the last one. Logically, we have nowhere to go but up. So 2021 is the year to believe in good things, serve without reserve, find joy again and know without a doubt that things will get better.

Let’s believe 2021 won’t need another poop box.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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