The landscape was starting to look a little sad, a little March-like. It just didn’t seem right.
Last week, as the calendar wound down on a snowy December, there had been a lull in the flurries. The emergence of the mud-splattered, icy snow banks that distinguish late winter right there in the midst of all that holiday cheer can really take the magical, sugar-dusted thing out of the picture for even those of us who peer at winter through rose-colored glasses. Those of us who see little need for the season to exist at all have already had more than enough, for crying out loud.
But I daresay even the true winter haters among us must have thought the sight out the window come Thursday looked a little nicer with a fresh coat — OK, a puffy, subzero-rated parka of a coat — of snow.
And it furnished an apt metaphor for the final celebration in the string of manic, merry-making weeks that mark the end of the year.
Just as the skier greets a fresh snowfall as a chance to carve new tracks where no one has yet gone, a new calendar gives us at least a theoretical fresh start. A do-over. A new opportunity to dream.
New Year’s Day feels like a blank page, anxiously awaiting our most inspired and optimistic prose. It’s a chance to glance back and remind ourselves of what went well, and didn’t, and to gaze ahead at what might be.
In the spirit of this new year and its way of making all things seem possible, here are a few of the things that, your correspondent hopes, lie just over the horizon.
More compassion. This might seem like a no-brainer, and I honestly do think we’re getting better at getting along — though I acknowledge that could be part of a giddy holiday-spirit hangover — but we still have a way to go before we’re really comfortable walking in each other’s shoes, be it for a meter or a mile. While by this time we all know somebody who’s out of work and can’t seem to find new livelihood that fits, it still doesn’t feel like we fully understand and acknowledge that the people in today’s equivalent of the bread line are very, very much like you and me. They need help, for now, putting food on the table for their families. They need a hand, until they find work, with covering their expenses. This was no time to cut hunger relief for millions of American families and pull the unemployment checks from 1.2 million people who still need a way to bridge the gap. So please add an extra-large side order of Congressional compassion to that request.
Less self-promotion. I know that’s kind of a goofy thing to say in an election year, but there are a whole lot of folks jockeying for local, state and national office this year. When they have the floor, they need to exercise care to ensure that what they say doesn’t sound like it’s been stewing for a while in the campaign-byte compartment of their brains. Trust me, it’s a turnoff. And sounding like a regular person can be a great way to gain cred.
More engagement. It’s not a big secret that we don’t chat with our neighbors over the backyard fence, either literally or figuratively, the way we did in days past. There are lots of reasons for that, but the truth is that we’ve lost much of our connectedness. And that’s sad. We can’t afford to distance ourselves from our communities. We need to be better involved in the workings of the world immediately around us.
Better voting. You can’t tell just by looking at someone whether s/he’s a Green Party person or a tea party person, or someone who perches ideologically somewhere in between. Yes, it requires time and attention to gain a balanced, complete picture of what our options look like, but if we’re going to exercise our constitutionally granted rights, we’ve got to make time to do just that. Project Vote Smart, which commentator Bill Moyers called “a bright light in an often desultory civic culture,” provides comprehensive and truly non-partisan data to help you decide who deserves your backing. Check it out at votesmart.org. We don’t usually give it all that much thought, but it’s really a pretty big deal to have a voice in a democratic society. It’s important to pay attention so we can use it well.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more ways to tell you what to do; just ask my kids. But this is a start.
Oh, and one more thing: have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Please.