Well, hello there and welcome, Little Baby ’21.

Glad it’s you and not me. Sorry, but no one wants to be in your little baby shoes right now.

If Lil’ ’21 were an actual child just entering the world, he or she would take one look at the new digs — and promptly try crawling right back up into the womb.

Using a baby as the symbol of an incoming year goes way, way back, with both the Greeks and Egyptians including newborns as part of various ceremonies. Here in the U.S., illustrator J.C. Leyendecker created “Saturday Evening Post” covers depicting a New Year’s baby for every January issue, often reflecting in some way the events of the particular period. His iconic versions of the babies and their escapades graced covers from 1907 until 1943.

A new year imagined as a cute, sweet, innocent little baby. What better way to express our hopes for the next 12 months?

In any other time, we’d be ecstatic to see the little tyke finally arrive. But now?

This poor kid is falling right in the middle of some major wreckage, and it’s going to take far more than turning a single calendar page to make things all better. The issues piling up on us these past 365 days didn’t magically disappear last night when 2020 exited through the history portal. For months, denizens scattered all over this rock have chalked off ’20 as a total loss while praying for its demise. You can bet your booty no one will mistakenly write “2020” in a checkbook in these ensuing days. We’re that ready for 2020 to fade out like a bad memory.

If we can imagine a new year as an infant, then how would we personify 2020?

Oh, boy. Let’s be real. If 2020 were a real man trying to sneak out the back door, he’d notice all of us wearing our Christmas mistletoe on our shirttails with an invitation to kiss our aspirations of getting him out of here. He’d probably have people waiting in line to jump his old butt for the havoc he’s wreaked.

He’s leaving a big, big mess for sure. Nobody’s going to miss A.D. 2020.

Poor Lil’ ’21 arrived here just hours ago and is already facing more pressure than perhaps any other newborn in the history of ever. This baby hasn’t got a clue, yet we’re expecting immediate miracles.

And we’re supposed to be happy for the kid?

Think of any child you’ve known born into a highly dysfunctional family. Parents constantly fighting and screaming. Family members who care not one whit about one another. Nothing much good going on in the household, with few signs of anything getting better, or of anyone willing to work to make it so. It’s tragic.

Would you be happy for the new little one, or would you be worried?

Exactly. Lil’ ’21 is going to need some help — a whole lot of help from a whole lot of people. I sure hope this kid meets the right kinds of humans very, very soon.

We’ll need to introduce this little one to those who understand the word “sacrifice.” Somehow, in 2020 the definition twisted from “what we do for others” into “something someone else is supposed to do for me.” How many times have we heard military members and veterans, first responders, medical workers and others lauded for their sacrifices? Theirs are big, big sacrifices. If the word was so special, then why was it so hard for others to do on a much smaller scale? Wear a mask and avoid crowds. Keep your distance. Those tiny sacrifices alone would have helped tremendously in 2020 … but, sadly, they were too much to ask of far too many.

We’ll need good folks to show Lil’ ’21 that all the screaming and fighting isn’t actually coming from the parents. The worst noise is coming from a pair of political parties that need changing as much as a baby’s diaper — and for pretty much the same reason. We have to hope this little one comprehends “compromise” a lot faster than the so-called adults have.

I’ll also hope Lil’ ’21 meets examples of the actual heroes in our midst. Real heroes, and not the exaggerated versions of the term. A person isn’t a hero just because he or she is famous. The definition deserves more. And maybe Ol’ 2020 didn’t get a lot right, but the year at least helped clarify the word’s significance by shining a light on some everyday citizens showing off the best humanity has to offer. Sure, we could have used a lot more of those nurses, doctors, teachers and other decent folks who gave everything humanly possible to make others’ lives better, but in a year like this past one, we took what we could get. Maybe (hopefully), we can introduce Lil’ ’21 to even more of them over the next 12 months.

Babies — even symbolic ones — deserve a chance. All the hope and promise wrapped in a little bundle of a new year won’t matter if the existing adults aren’t willing to give the kid a decent landing spot.

Want Lil’ ’21 to be better than Ol’ ’20?

Just help make sure this baby meets all the right people.

And maybe even try harder to ensure we’re one of them.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.