Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? As we embark on 2023, it’s traditional for many people that they set some goals for themselves – things that they want to work on in the coming months. Whether we call them resolutions or goals or setting a personal agenda, I think it’s a worthy thing to do, so with your kind permission, I’d like to offer some thoughts on self-improvement for the coming year.
Practice Kindness. Did you see the news story the other day out of Buffalo, New York? During that region’s terrible Christmas winter storm, a mentally disabled 64-year-old man named Joey became disoriented and wandered out into the weather. He walked for miles, lost, and was just moments away from dying from hypothermia when a lady named Sha’Kyra heard him crying outside her home. She and her family – total strangers to this man, mind you – took him in and cared for him. She used a blow dryer to thaw out his clothes, which had frozen to his body. Sha’Kyra is a nurse, and she cared for Joey as best she could. His hands were so frozen that his rescuers literally had to cut away his gloves. She bathed him, cared for him, fed him, kept him warm and safe, and let him sleep until they were able to find his family, who had been frantically looking for him in the blizzard.
But the family couldn’t drive over there, because of the storm. Ambulances couldn’t get to them, and 911 was swamped, so Nurse Sha’Kyra and the man’s sister Yvonne used social media to organize neighbors, who in turn showed up – on Christmas Day! – with snowblowers and shovels to dig out their vehicles. Then Sha’Kyra and the neighbors transported Joey to the hospital. At last report, Joey is still in the hospital, recovering from fourth-degree frostbite. He may yet lose some fingers, but he’s alive, thanks to the kindness of one woman who was willing to go out of her way to help a stranger.
Granted, this is an extreme example, but I think the truth is inescapable: each of us can make a big difference in someone else’s life through a simple act of kindness. Whatever the situation, whatever the circumstances, let us be willing to be a Sha’Kyra to someone around us.
Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt. There’s probably a certain level of suspicion that is necessary – even healthy. But it seems to me that too many of us have become cynical in the extreme, unwilling to listen to anyone with a different point of view, and even doubting their goodness and basic humanity. There was a time in this country when we might disagree with others about their ideas or public policy, but we still respected them as people. But those days seem like a distant and unreachable memory. Now, when we disagree, we often feel the need to attack opponents personally, to call them evil and question their decency.
Certainly, we need to be able to debate and discuss many policy issues, but we should start by acknowledging that both sides want what is best for the country – they just have different ideas for how to accomplish that. Republicans, Democrats, Independents: everyone needs to quit playing political “gotcha” and work together for the common good.
I saw an excellent example of that just the other day at our own county commissioners meeting, as the incoming and outgoing commissioners calmly sat together before the meeting and discussed an issue relating to their precinct. No drama, no histrionics – just two good men, who both wanted what was best for the residents of that part of the county, and both doing their best to work for that. It made me proud of our local government – and a little bit sad that others in state and national government don’t show the same kind of unselfishness and good sense.
Learn Something New. It’s easy to fall into a rut – it’s much harder to try something different. I’m suggesting that it’s worth the effort to do just that. Read a new book. Learn to cook. Explore a new hobby. Plant a garden. Take up woodworking. Go for a walk. Be willing to explore the new and try the unfamiliar. Develop curiosity and put it into practice. When we challenge ourselves like that, it keeps our minds fresh and provides us with opportunities to make new friends and discover things we never knew.
Too many of us are too willing to settle for things as they are and always have been. Remember, there was a time when everything we enjoy was new to us, untried and unfamiliar. Let’s be willing to break out of our routines. Remember, if you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to try something you’ve never tried.
Happy New Year! Here’s to a blessed and safe 2023 for us all.