Well, it’s a brand-new year and time to get on the good foot, as the old folks used to say. Most of my friends who traveled by air during the holidays seem to have accepted that extensive security checks and long waiting periods are rapidly becoming a way of life. They consider a few inconveniences a small price to pay for the peace of mind of safe air travel. Some have expressed their belief that high levels of security alerts will be with us for years.
Many of us have adjusted to the reality that we have entered a new phase of global existence. People of different economic, political and social levels have divergent views as to what our future role will be in the new world order. For some, it is a time of great confidence and self-assurance; for others, discomfort and uncertainty weigh heavily on the mind.
As I listened to some young people discuss their views of the American dream, I was solemnly impressed by the way horrific events can reshape our vision of the future. Safety in the pursuit of our lifestyles has become a major concern, whereas a few years ago, it was a factor most of us took for granted. In most cases, the dream seems to be no longer a free-floating, diaphanous mass of unformed hopes, but a physical construct of finite dimensions. In other words, a lot of young folks know definitely what they want to be when they grow up and what they don’t want to be. These people want to be the kind of people who live in peace and harmony with other humans sharing this planet.
Generally speaking, making New Year’s resolutions, for some, is a way of addressing their hopes and aspirations for 2004. They consider these resolutions as building blocks paving the road to their desired goals. I stopped making resolutions some years ago. My strategy for journeying into another year is to try to stock my suitcase with all the tools and equipment I can anticipate I’ll need to complete the 365-day trip. Here’s what I’ve packed so far:
n Several cartons each of forgiveness, patience and tolerance. The other day, a preacher on television pointed out that if getting even worked, the Israelis and Palestinians would be living together in peace. Just last week, I saw a newspaper headline that informed us that the Israelis had slain five and the Palestinians four in a recent skirmish. That reminded me that I don’t really want to go through the year exchanging tit for tat with the folks that believe that you can make peace by striking back at your enemies. However, I do accept that for many, vengeance is a desirable goal and it will satisfy their appetites. As long as people clarify their goals, we don’t have a problem. I find forgiveness a much more effective way of building bridges for peace.
It has taken me more than half my lifetime to finally learn to quit expecting certain behaviors from individuals incapable of them. I truly believe that most of us are what we were when we were children. For the most part, I think we still possess many of the same virtues and vices. On a simple scale, if one hadn’t learned to say “thank you” and “please” by age 7, probably he or she never will. I have to live in a world with many people who never learned basic good manners. I have to live in a world with many people who are determined to try to force others to live according to their rules. It will take all the forgiveness, patience and tolerance I can carry to make coexistence bearable.
n Ten ounces of crow. This is for the few occasions when one of our political leaders might make a decision uninfluenced by money or a sports event has to take a back seat to a pressing social issue or the majority of the national media doesn’t accept the government’s evaluation of events and investigates them. (This item has been packed in dry ice, so it can be carried over into 2005.)
n One million cartons of admiration and appreciation for members of the military engaged in combat and all the thousands of individuals throughout the world who engage in random acts of kindness every day. As they dig through the rubble and debris in Iran in search of earthquake victims, kneel for prayer in convents and monasteries, hold vigils in hospices, donate blood, feed the hungry and act out uncommon acts of bravery in daily life, may goodwill reign.
n A boxcar load of prayers for spiritual healing for the oppressed, the depressed and the brokenhearted and enlightenment for those who live in spiritual darkness.
I really have no expectations that this year will be much different than the ones that have gone before. Still, I have no problem hoping for big things to happen, like a cure for cancer and peace in the Middle East. In any case, just starting out the year to be the best that we can be is an excellent beginning.
Shall we begin?
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her