By Sam Terry
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
Another year is about to come to an end. As is the case each and every year, there are mixed feelings all around. For those whose happy moments and accomplishments reigned supreme, it was a good year and one to remember. For the rest, whose year included loss or disappointment, it will also be remembered but with a tinge of sadness or regret. Sunday night will find some of us looking toward 2018 with hope. Others will watch for the Midnight hour to make sure 2017 goes away.
The celebration of the New Year is, perhaps, one of the most unique holidays on the calendar. It honors no person or historical event, has no religious or liturgical context, and no social or civic agenda. The only thing the celebration of a New Year accomplishes is the end of the old year and the welcoming of another. Depending on how you look at it, it’s the flip of a page, another click on life’s odometer, or another mark in the tally of life. For some of us, the event is a catalyst for self-assessment.
We don’t have the ability to rewind the clock or to change the past. What we have are memories of people, events, accomplishments, and the losses that made an impact on us, be they good or bad. No matter what, they stick with us and help make each of us unique.
Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a valuable piece of advice when he wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Think about that for a moment as you assess 2017 and think about things you should do in 2018.
Just like all of the other years in history, lots of our friends and relatives didn’t make it through 2017. In some cases, they realized their final bow was imminent and others reached the end of their allotted days having put off things they always wanted to do and never got around to. One thing is certain, not a single one of them reached the end of life wishing they’d spent more time at work or squandering their precious time and energy scrolling through a phone in their hand.
One thing we can be certain of in the coming year is change. It happens every year. Some of those changes will be challenging and uncomfortable yet they will be necessary. Nearly all of the changes coming our way can be shaped by each of us. Perhaps nothing is more important in the coming year than making plans, setting goals, being determined, and living deliberately to make our lives and our communities better.
In preparing for next year, consider some of the ways we can make the most of our lives in 2018.
• We need to let go of petty grudges. Life is too short to be wasted nursing bitterness or trying to correct wrongs to our own liking. Forgive. Apologize. Stop being foolish before it’s too late.
• Live in reality. Thinking something doesn’t make it true. Wanting something doesn’t make it real. Be honest with yourself and others. Creating your own version of reality is time consuming and the results can be toxic to you and your relationships. If you can’t be honest with yourself, then who can you be honest with?
• Stop looking at the greener grass on the other side. Sometimes the grass only appears greener because of the way the light is cast upon it. Sometimes, it’s because they watered their grass. Stop comparing and start living in a way that makes your grass greener.
• Bear in mind that you are not the only person who has suffered loss, tragedy, or an injustice. Such things happen to nearly all of us but in differing measure. Don’t let such things define your being. Don’t let being a victim rob you of your time and talent. Life isn’t so much what happens to us but rather how we react to it. Look around you and you’ll always find someone with a burden greater than yours. Look forward, look upward, look onward.
• Vow to put down your gadgets. Stop being “connected” to everyone in the world for at least a few hours each day. Those text messages, phone calls, and social media comments can wait. Instead, get to know the people around you by having face-to-face conversations. Ask about other people’s stories. And for goodness’ sake, listen. You might be surprised by the things you’ll learn.
• Let go of the idea you’re a self-made person. You’re not. Someone, somewhere believed in you, encouraged you, and perhaps even invested in you. You will never make yourself appear superior or successful by pointing out others’ shortcomings. Stop assuming others had it easier than you; instead, ask about their story. Listen. Be humble. Be teachable. Be a good neighbor.
• Stop looking for happiness from the world and understand it must begin with you, within you. Make a point to read something positive every morning and be sure you’ve done something positive for someone else before you end your day. Be someone who makes a difference in others’ lives; double your happiness by not telling anyone what you did.
• Be credible. If you mess up, say you’re sorry. Be someone you’d want to spend time with. Strive to make your words and values always match up.
• Learn to appreciate the “gray” area that inevitably comes between moments of success and failure. Consider this little quip: “There’ll be two dates on your tombstone, and all your friends will read ‘em, but the only part that matters is the little dash between ‘em.” While you’re working on your dash, be careful not to let success go to your head or failure rest in your heart.
• Be joyful. If you want to inspire others – and even yourself – be joyful. No one is inspired by misery so forgive yourself, accept yourself, and be yourself.
We live a brief life but along with way there are some marvelous moments and meaningful adventures if we focus on living fully. It’s never too late. As Eric Roth wrote in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, “We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Goodbye, 2017! Happy New Year!