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New Year Hopes for 2016January 12, 2016
I love new beginnings -- a new year, the first day of school, a birthday. It's a chance to start over with a clean slate, "to make all things new." (Revelations 21:5) One of my happiest memories is the smell of newly purchased yellow pencils being sharpened, the sound of a crisp new notebook binder opening, the floury scent and raspy sound of chalk as the teacher wrote on the blackboard. From our study of the world's sacred texts, I believe that life is school and then, God willing, we graduate, having learned what we came here to learn. In this life, we are meant to open the treasure chest of virtues with which each one of us was born, and bring these treasures to life by using them, practicing and polishing them. A close island friend asked me the other day "What is a New Year's resolution?" The answer that popped out of my mouth was "a promise to God". For anyone, whatever their beliefs, it is a promise to oneself to do something new and different, a commitment to a happier, better life.
At the beginning of each year I spend time looking back, reflecting on my teachable moments of the year and looking forward - praying for clarity, direction, a spiritual theme that will help me grow the fruits of the Spirit. I also do a random Virtues Pick. Last year, I was a bit intimidated when Humility came up. Humility is the great teacher, the virtue that tests our egos in order to strengthen our souls. I expected to be tested, and I was. In the Tanach of Judaism, or Old Testament, in Micah 6:6-8, the question is, "With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?" and the answer is, not all one's earthly goods or one's first born, but rather, "He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God." Real happiness comes from spiritual living, so here are three virtues for more health and happiness in the coming year.
Justice: What will this year be like if we deal fairly with others - our children, customers, spouses, our family, the strangers we meet? In any conflict, we focus on our own part, not someone else's. We have the humility to take responsibility and make amends to those we have hurt or betrayed. Most problems end quickly when one person admits their wrongdoing and makes it right with an apology or simply by changing their behavior in the future. Even better, when both can acknowledge the part they played.
Kindness: I remember the Samoan mamas who came to a Virtues workshop on the second day after we talked about being kind to children rather than growling and striking them in anger. With tears running down her face, one woman came to the microphone and spoke to the crowd of more than 100 souls. "Last night I apologized to my children before God, and said I would do my best from now on to be a kind mother. I was so surprised when they cried and said, 'Mommy, we will be more obedient. We will help you more.' We have decided to become a virtues family!"
Walking humbly with God: What if we treated our lives as a sacred journey, continually seeking to learn from our mistakes, which are often our best teachers? I was very touched -- and humbled, when a man approached me at a Christmas celebration and quoted word for word from a column I had written weeks before. "You said when an urge to backbite comes, we need to bite it back, and then pray for the person instead. I've really been working on that. Gossip is so common and it's so easy to slip into it. So I've been stopping myself, biting it back. So, Linda when should we pray for the person we were going to gossip about -- right then?" With tears in my eyes, I said, "Right then or later is fine too." He was shining with humility and sincerity. May we all enjoy a just, kind, and humble new year.