Last year, I wrote a post on how I wanted to pick ‘romantic’ as my Word of the Year (WotY) but then realised that it didn’t match up with the person I wanted to be. So instead I chose ‘agape’, greek for unconditional love. 2020 was going to be the year I paid love forward with no expectation of its return.

Then a pandemic happened.

A proper pandemic. Not one like swine flu in 2008/9 when the more paranoid appeared nuts for how much hand sanitiser they were using. Instead, we are all using that amount of hand sanitiser. I moved back to my parents and watched the figures of COVID deaths slowly (or not so slowly) rise. And as they rose, parts of me died as life became more and more about surviving.

Now I am not throwing a pity party here. I’m just being honest about how 2020 affected me. While many found ways to love others conditionally, including my parents who’s generosity seemed to know no bounds, my world shrunk and became less loving. Any energy I had went into work, staying alive and doing my best to keep writing… oh, and one other development that was definitely for my own benefit. Paying love forward in the little and big moved way down my priorities list. Where I did manage it, it definitely wasn’t intentional.

Basically, as soon as COVID happened, I forgot all about WotY and any shiny goals I had. My quarterly goals… well, to be honest I barely set any over 2020. Most of the time it felt like there wasn’t really any point and even when I did I didn’t meet them.

So here’s the plan for 2021’s WotY: I’m recycling ‘agape’ and giving it a second shot. I must state this is not a fresh start. There are my reasons 2020 wasn’t great but silver linings, like Hutchmoot Homebound, mean I also don’t want to pretend it never happened. Instead, it is the turn of ‘pandemic-surviving-Katy’ to have a go at paying love forward.

Pink chalk heart on a pavement
Chalk art in my local pop up park in 2020 reminding us to keep on loving

So, how do we pay love forward in a pandemic?

You already know many of the answers to that question. Call friends and family, either via video or on the phone (honestly, Bluetooth headphones are the best multi-tasking hack – you can chat on the phone whilst doing chores!). Offer to do the shopping or ‘click and collect’ for those who can’t or would prefer not to leave their house. When picking up a takeaway to treat… I mean, help the economy… choose somewhere local, ideally independent or at least from your high street. If you find yourself baking or cooking, why not drop it off with those who know who are still working, especially on the frontline, or who might be in need of a treat. Write letters to friends and family you haven’t seen this year.

But also, now is the time to think outside the box. How about using your daily exercise to litter pick once a fortnight or more? I’m aiming for once a month due to working still but as evenings get longer I might increase the frequency. Other people in my town had various scenes in their front garden with bears doing things that provided smiles for people who walked past. Older neighbours who can’t care for their garden or wash the car at the moment? Why not offer to do some of their outdoors jobs?

Agape love is the easiest thing in the world to write sermons about or wax theological on. After all, the Bible literally says that God is love. The challenge is putting the sermons and the theological theories into practice, making them part of everyday life. Human beings are created in God’s image; if God is love then we are created in the image of that love.

Will you join me this year in living out agape love?

Human beings are created in God's image; if God is love then we are created in the image of that love.

- Word of 2021: Agape Love