This was a year of many changes. First of all, 2010 was the year that didn’t even have a clear name. Is it twenty-ten? Or two-thousand-ten? How are we supposed to have a clear concept on what the year was supposed to have in store for us if we couldn’t even decide on a name?
It was also the year JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater taught us about taking a job and shoving it. It was the year (after) we saw our first black president. And our baseball team won the World Series. And it was the year that many families struggled to keep afloat in an economy that was promised as getting better by the bigwigs while we little people were left to wonder what economy they were seeing. Paychecks decreased with pay cuts, or disappeared completely with the loss of a job. And while household incomes grew smaller, the cost of living grew larger. And just when things couldn’t become any bleaker, the bigwigs decided that we could no longer afford the programs that kept people off of welfare or supplemented their income while looking for a job that still hadn’t revealed itself. These difficult times we’ve been experiencing brings me to a passage from Ronald Reagan’s 1976 speech declaring his candidacy for the presidency, “To Restore America.”
“No one who lived through the Great Depression can ever look upon an unemployed person with anything but compassion. To me, there is no greater tragedy than a breadwinner willing to work, with a job skill but unable to find a market for that job skill. Back in those dark depression days I saw my father on a Christmas Eve open what he thought was a Christmas greeting from his boss. Instead, it was the blue slip telling him he no longer had a job. The memory of him sitting there holding that slip of paper and then saying in a half whisper, ‘That’s quite a Christmas present,’ it will stay with me as long as I live.”
And now, in the blink of an eye, 2010 is over. And here we are, at the end of another year, breathless from the whirlwind of 365 days that knocked the wind out of us, hoping with everything we have that 2011 really is the beginning of a whole new year – a chance to start over fresh and make something from it that looks nothing like the past several years.
And while this letter to you seems downcast and full of wistfulness, I promise you that it is really a letter to you for hope. Ronald Reagan, like our grandparents, came out of the Great Depression with experiences learned on how to live life, and developed a feeling of gratefulness for all that he had. He took that experience and learned from it, shaping his life in a way that would have been so much different had he not suffered poverty and hardships during a very trying time – a time much like the one we are experiencing now.
What we have now is a chance to start over, to relearn the ways that we live so that it is possible to survive in a world where the economy is tight and resources are slim. And it is a perfect opportunity to look at what we do have, searching out all the gifts in our lives and seeing them for the riches that they are. Our health, our children, our children’s health, friends, a bed to sleep in, a kindness received, a smile from a stranger, the ability to still give to those who have less than we do…
It’s tradition for the new year to bring on new resolutions. Lose that spare tire around the waist by eating better and exercising more. Spend more time with friends or family. Create a better budget to make this the year to get out of debt. Learn a new language, or maybe take that art class you’ve always wanted to sign up for. Write that book that has been swimming around in your head…. These are all wonderful ways towards improvements and to accomplish things that you’ve always wanted to do. Yet they are also resolutions that are often made and then forgotten as the first day of the year passes us by and fades in the rearview mirror.
But what if every day were a chance to start fresh?
Neither I, nor anyone else, can promise you that 2011 is going to be a better year. That depends on you. Times are going to be tight. Hardships are going to happen. But what are you going to do about it? Better, what is your attitude towards these changed times going to be?
This year, I urge your resolution to be about making every day new – a chance to start fresh and welcome all the good that comes with it, with the understanding that all the negative experiences bring chances for learning. Let your attitude be a positive one that your children learn by, that even when times are tough, life is still good. And may this New Year bring you the wealth of a life filled with joy.
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, ANYONE can start from not and make a brand new ending.” Carl Sandberg, American writer, editor, and acclaimed poet.
Happy NEW Year, every day of 2011…however you say it.