How was your year?
We could all use a little more understanding. canstockphoto15221584
Well friends, another year just blew by. People in my circle agree with me that time seems to be going faster than ever now. For me the passing of time is indicated by certain natural events that line up and accelerate the process. The peeking out of spring seems to start the year as the cold fades. Then there’s the welcome summer breezes that eventually turn into dreaded, humid dog days of July and before you know it, kids are heading back to school, leaves are changing color and football related activities can be seen on TV, in newspapers and at your local high school. As that wanes the first snows come whispering in and before you know it the holidays are here and gone.
And that’s where we are now. The holidays are just ahead and then we set in for that long hibernating piece of winter before the April/May sun starts to stay steady again.
So, here in the 2013 home stretch I’d like to know - how was your year? By what measure would you call 2013 a success?
Did you accomplish the things you thought you would as you promised yourself back on January 1 st ?
I had a pretty good year. Got a better interest rate on the mortgage. Wife and kids stayed healthy all year. Had my gallbladder removed but the operation went well and the results have me feeling a lot better. Got broadsided in a huge car accident that totaled my trusty old VW but even though glass shattered and air bags were deployed, I walked away from the whole thing without a scratch. And even though I originally thought I was in no position to add another car payment to my current debt, the VW’s replacement is a vastly improved ride and the insurance check gave me a nice down payment; lots of silver linings to consider. I’m finding the glass half full at this moment.
My wife’s cousins lost their mother right at the end of the year just last week. As she was fading in hospice the families were gathered around; all her children and grandchildren were there. Her husband had passed on 8 years ago and it occurred to her youngest daughter that mom was always so worried about her kids and their security that maybe she was reluctant to die because she knew now the kids would truly be alone without any parents at all. Everyone had been commenting on how long she was “holding on.” In a quiet and lucid moment her daughter leaned in and said, “Mom, look around. We’re all here. We’re all doing fine. If dad’s waiting for you we’d be glad for you to be with him again. You can let go now. We’ll be OK.” Her mother looked at her, sighed and 30 seconds later exhaled her last breath. Incredible thing to have witnessed. A true testimony of a mother’s will and love. Beautiful. Their hearts are a bit heavy today but time will heal that. She lived a wonderful life. The wake and funeral were somber but optimistic. There’s a lot of family there and they all lean on each other graciously.
As I drove home Cindy and Sam were noticeably quiet. Sam piped up from the back seat as he gazed out the window at the falling snow, “Man, nothing stays the same does it?” My wife, who was especially close to this aunt agreed, “It sure doesn’t.”
I had a different reaction. I said it depended on the definition of “the same.” (Aren’t I a pain in the neck to be around?) I explained that certainly things are always changing. People age, retire, move on with their lives, kids grow up, etc. but the things that shouldn’t change too drastically are the character and foundations of each family and it seems to me they change very little. “Aunt Angie may be gone but her daughter’s have her spirit, her son is a lot like his father and the people their parents were will be a lot like the people they now are and will become.”
The car stayed silent. They considered all that. “Yeah, that makes sense,” Cindy said. “But I just wish some things would stay the same.”
Sam put in the final note, “But the truth is mom, nothing really does.”
And this leads me to today as we sit here considering 2014 just a few days before Christmas 2013.
Maybe it’s time we took another look at the way we consider the passing of time. Every time I hear radio broadcasters say that the winter weather report is “lousy” because there’s going to be more snow or lower temperatures this opinion rings clear. What about the people that like winter weather? If the radio broadcaster likes summer weather maybe he ought to think about moving somewhere that it is always warm. It’s sort of unfair and actually rather assumptive to think that every one hearing your broadcast agrees with your opinion of cold weather isn’t it? How about we start to consider things like this in 2014?
Another element of this is the quick conclusion. I often hear people respond in a rash uninformed way when they get certain news on people. They will hear that a famous actor or actress died and people will automatically legitimize this by blaming drugs or alcohol. Later when they find out the person was suffering from a life-long disease they rarely acknowledge the error of their assumption. This is also applies to politicians and previous boyfriends and girlfriends. Something draws us to assume the worst – even almost hope for it.
“Did you hear Donna is no longer working for the vice-president?”
“Doesn’t surprise me! I wonder how she lasted THIS long!”
“Yeah, they promoted her and now she works for the president!”
“Oh. Well. Like I said, it doesn’t surprise me. She knows a lot of inside people.”
See how that works? Even in the compliment we nestle a way to bury an insult. And why all this? There is no need to be so competitive. There’s plenty of pain and challenge and remorse in everyone’s life. It’s hard to find the silver linings all the time, especially if there’s a whole series of things going wrong some days. My sense of it is that we merely have to begin a culture of accepting change and finding a way to accommodate it and not resist it. Because Sam was right – very little stays the same. And how boring would things be if they did stay the same? So for 2014 let’s shoot for a little more harmony between each other. To achieve that I find three simply reminders to be handy:
1.) Be generous - with your time, your patience, your abilities and even your money. There are people that need some of what you have. Don’t be stingy about sharing. Read to people who cannot. Listen to the stories of your elders (for the tenth time) and look interested. Don’t interrupt your children when they are telling the long version of the simplest story. Tip big at restaurants if you can. Make 20% your minimum. If you’re spending $25 for a light fare dinner what’s another $5? It’s a small price to pay for the happiness and self-respect it gives a server.
2.) Look for silver linings and help others find them too. When your employee calls and says their battery is dead and they will be late to work tell them to be safe and not to hurry. Remind them that if the car broke down in their driveway it is actually a blessing. At least they didn’t break down in the middle of a cold parking lot at 10 o’clock at night. They can make the plans to get it repaired from the warmth and safety of their own home. Help people feel better about things. It’s not that hard to do.
3.) Try to remember that everyone is doing the best they can. The car that is slipping all over the road in front of you is probably owned by a guy that wishes he could afford better tires. The guy paying for $5 of gas with pocket change would rather have a $20 bill to plop down but he’s broke, man. Think about how he feels before you get mad about how he makes YOU feel. We’re all doing the best we can.
Change is inevitable in 2014 my friends. We can welcome it and ease the pain for others or we can fight it the whole way and take out our anger on the brethren. Why make it difficult? Let’s work to make 2014 a year that will set an example for the future.
My best wishes for a prosperous, generous and easy year. We could all use a little more understanding and good will. Be a carrier of that message and watch it flow back to you.