So it’s all come down, at last, to this. 

The end of another year. Another 365 days wadded up and tossed aside like a used gum wrapper. It’s all over. Gone. Past tense.  There it is, in the rear-view mirror…

Ave atque vale, 2013; you were an interesting little year, while you lasted. A few of us may even miss you.

Now we all get to start over. Time to chuck that calendar into the circular file beside your desk and start your headlong rush into another 52 weeks of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

But before you lift your glass and sing another chorus of “Auld Lang Syne,” let me try laying one last deep thought on you. Squint if you must:

What have you left behind? 

When these last few grains of sand run through the hourglass and 2013 recedes into the background, what is it about this year – good or bad – that will stand out in your mind? How will you take the lessons of the year just ending and apply them to the new?

It isn’t my intention to climb upon a soapbox and preach about New Year’s resolutions. Why should I? The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made is to not make any New Year’s resolutions. So far I've done a pretty good job of keeping that one...

And I don’t wish to fall back upon an already overused cliche and tell you to keep the spirit of the just-ending holiday season alive, to love everyone else and be forgiving and sacrificial and look for a way to make someone’s life more wonderful than it already is. Hey, we all get enough of that sort of thing from other well-meaning so-and-sos around this time of year. No need to add my voice to the chorus.

Besides, nobody knows better than I do just how difficult it is to live up to such resolutions once they’ve been made. “Look, I want to break myself of this bad habit, but it’s tough, you know? Anyway, one more day can’t possibly hurt; I’ll try to give it up again tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.” There’s a reason I don’t make resolutions; I know better than anybody just how weak I can be.

And I know how tough it can be to choke up nice things to say about the boss who just turned you down for a much-needed and well-deserved raise. Or the bozo who just plowed straight through that red light on Main Street when you had the right-of-way. Or that neighbor kid who throws rocks at your pet dog, apparently just out of sheer meanness.

Still, let’s look at the flip side for just a moment. 

You there, sir…yes, you, the one who has decided that it's okay to put off following through on your resolution for just one more day. For your sake I hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t bet the rent on it. No matter what your particular vice may be, one more day can most definitely hurt. Not just yourself, but those around you as well. If you don’t care about what you’re inflicting upon you as an individual, can you at least take a moment to consider the very real pain you may be inflicting upon your family and friends - those who, for reasons perhaps not even known to themselves, happen to love you and care about what happens to you?

And you, the poor soul who feels that everyone is out to get you today… Did it occur to you that the driver who ran that red light may have been rushing an extremely sick child to the hospital? Or that your boss can’t give you that raise, because business has slipped this year and he just can’t afford it, and that he has even had to accept a cut in his own salary? Or that those thrown rocks may be an expression not of hatred but of fear, because your dog may have once snapped at the neighbor boy when he innocently tried to pet it?

Well, it could have happened that way. But probably not - nobody has problems in this world except you, right? 


And even if someone else does have problems of their own, what concern is that of ours? “Hey, I don’t have time to worry about whether or not some guy down the street is going to be able to find work and feed his kids… my cable’s out and I won’t be able to watch that game I’ve been waiting all week to see!”

Sound familar? It should. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it, whether we care to admit it or not. 

But do we care? Many of us certainly don’t seem to, not the way we should. Some don’t care at all. Why should we? It’s easier on us if we just sit back and watch and leave it at that. 

The only problem is that we often become so intent on watching what people do that we fail to see who they are. Never mind that a person’s heart is right, or that he may be in the middle of an extremely rough personal crisis, or even that he may actually be working on overcoming some of his bad habits; what matters is that this person does not live up to my own personal ethical, societal or intellectual standards. Therefore, that person is beneath me. 

Or so some of us say.

“I heard from a girl who knows this friend who said that he was drunk and that somebody had to…”

Happy holidays, brother. Joy and Peace. Nice to see you’re spreading such glad tidings around.

“Well, if she did that she’s not a very mature individual…and she’s certainly not a very good Christian.”

Amen, sister. How wonderful it must be to be one of those chosen few qualified to determine just who among the rest of us is a “good” Christian and who is a “bad” Christian.  

“I heard that the new teacher at the high school was fired from his last teaching job… do we really want someone like him teaching our children?”

Hallelujah and Hosannas from the parent who is more willing to believe rumors and hearsay than he is to sit down and just talk with the new teacher for five minutes.

“I’m willing to stay right here until everyone here agrees with me… until then, know that Jesus died for your sins, and I’m going to point each and every one of them out to you.”

Season’s Greetings from someone who obviously gives a damn…  

Some people spend an awful lot of time talking about God and Jesus, but they forget to love their neighbor while they’re at it. 

What a joke. 

I ask the question again: Now that you’ve lived through another year of your own personal series of exhilerating highs and debilitating lows, what have you left behind? 

Was it kindness? Hope? Encouragement? Sacrifice?

Or was it something else?

Have you left a trail of rumors, lies, attacks and rationalizations in your wake? If so, have a happy new year - and I certainly hope you can live with yourself. Some people you’ve touched in the past year still have some pain and suffering ahead of them. Some of it may even be YOUR fault.

Sounds like a pretty heavy guilt trip, doesn’t it? Sort of makes it hard to look at yourself in the mirror. Well, neighbor, that’s exactly the idea. We all need a heavy yoke of guilt placed upon our shoulders every now and then. Some of us more often than others. 

On the other hand…

If you truly look upon the dawning of a new year as a time of renewal; if you look forward to that new year not only for what it may bring to you, but also to what it may bring to your neighbor; if you feel that your neighbors have a right to their own lives and beliefs, no matter how they might differ from your own…

In that case, a hearty Happy New Year to you, whoever you are and wherever you might be. I’m glad to see that someone like you still exists in this big old goofy world.

And I, for one, am working on being more like you…