The New Year

The symbol of the New Year is always a bright happy baby clad in a diaper and sash with the numerical year splashed across its length. People love babies. Watch the toughest, gruffest old curmudgeon become a babbling, goo-goo, gah-gah speaking powder puff at the sight of some proud mother’s new infant. And who can resist a wiggling puppy or a scrawny kitten? Why is that? Certainly there is joy in the newness of life, but why?

I like to think it is hope. “He’s our hope for the future,” people say. We all like hope, adhere to the hope that just maybe this new life will hold a special secret. Just maybe this new breathing bundle of soft flesh will grow up with the miracle, the power or wisdom to put an end to war or poverty, to discover a cure for cancer or AIDS or for that matter, all disease. Maybe that sweet bundle of innocence will be the one to put an end to lying and cheating and stealing and corruption and every level of evil that festers and eats away at this precious thing we call life.

Our children are our hope for immortality, the continuation of a family name, a bloodline. We hope to prevent them from repeating our mistakes, from sticking their fingers in the same fan. It is that hope that lives and breathes within each of us. Hope lives, too, even in the hearts of cynical non-believers, no matter how deeply it may be buried.

So now, with this fresh new cycle of time stretching out before us, it’s appropriate to ask what was gained or lost in the last twelve-month cycle? What lessons learned will better guide us on our journey?

On all accounts this was a difficult year. I doubt there is a heart not touched by the events of September. The level of loss was high this year; loss of human life, of family and friends and coworkers. There was loss of property and possessions, of homes and for many, financial loss on the market roller coaster. It was a tough way to begin a new millennium. But what did we learn?

We discovered the extraordinary level of courage and valor and selflessness to which we as a people will rise when tragedy and horror confront us. We learned that dignity and respect and value for human life far outweigh all else. We learned that money and possessions and all things that contain no life of their own are empty and foolish places to invest our love, our lives and our hopes. Maybe this year we viewed “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a less cynical eye and discovered the depth of its reality.

On Christmas day I heard a story of blind man who was on the 71st floor of tower one. The man became terrified by the noise and the heat and refused to leave. Caught up in the confusion and smoke and chaos, he became convinced he could not make it out. He unleashed his Seeing Eye guide dog and told him to go, hoping the dog might have the chance to live. The dog obeyed, becoming swept up in the sea of fleeing humanity. Who knows what it was or why, but a few minutes later the dog did something he’d never before done, he disobeyed. The dog fought his way back to his master, then relentlessly tugged at his master’s pant leg until the man followed. Nearly an hour of struggle, fear and exhaustion ensued, but one step at a time that dog guided his master to safety, saved his life. Belief, faith and yes hope, three important things we can carry with us into this New Year.

The New Year is a time for making resolutions; the time we pledge to truly change our lives. Where will you place your hope for the next twelve-month segment of life? Will you resolve to lose ten pounds, walk more, exercise more, eat healthy food, watch less television, quit smoking, drinking, eating junk food? Will you vow to take piano lessons, learn to paint, paint the house, get your taxes done on time, keep better records, clean out file drawers, dresser drawers, closets, the garage or basement more than annually? Will you pledge to drive more courteously, treat others with respect and simple kindness, let go of stress, be angry less and happy more? Will you have the courage to live with more honesty and make telling the truth a way of life? Will you love our children more, giving them more of what is truly important, you? Will you make time for all those things you say you’d love to do, “If only there were time?” Will you have the courage to bury cynicism, treachery, hatred and resentment and discover the true strength held in that which we fear most, kindness, goodness, honesty, respect and decency?

The choice is yours. May your dreams guide you, may 2002 be filled with ease and joy and greatness for each of you.

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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