Do you make New Year's Resolutions? I always have. And occasionally I even manage to keep them.
The year ending today leaves me in good spirits, as it saw me keep most of the resolutions I had set out for myself this time a year ago. Finally.
At the start of the year I desperately wanted to be able to give more, in amount as well as in regularity, to charity; I managed to find many ways to bring that about, mostly just through more disciplined thrift and diligence in managing our money. Looking back, I'm humbled to discover once again proof behind the adage, that the more you give, the more you receive... I was given many unexpected bonuses and pay raises this year, more than ever before. On the personal front, I needed to eliminate two decades-long bad habits, in particular, that were hurting my work, and (knock on wood) seem to have summoned the perseverance to do so. (Two down, two hundred to go... but thank God for small victories) I finally found the gumption to move out of that awful place we had been staying in (the true scale of its unpleasantness only revealed once we left the shadow it held over our lives) and by working as a team, the formidable Mrs Charles Henry and I now find ourselves in a place of our dreams... almost as nice a home as she deserves. The hardest resolution to keep was summoning the courage to admit to my mother that she was right and I had been wrong, on a personal issue causing bad feeling between us for almost twenty years. All through the years we argued about it, I never imagined I would live to hear myself admitting I was mistaken; so much for the certainties of youthful vanity. It's been a couple of years since I first came to realize I had been in error all that time, which was hard enough to admit to myself; this year I knew the right thing to do was to be man enough to finally apologize and admit the error to her... Boy that was tough. But eminently worthwhile, once it was done.
From the macro down to the micro: 6 years ago life had interrupted an old objective of mine, started in the mid-90s, that of reading the complete 11-volume Story Of Civilization series by Will Durant (all 10,000 pages of them), and this year I finally found the discipline to resume that project of self-betterment, by resuming volume four, The Age Of Faith, plowing through volume five, The Reformation, and wading knee-deep into volume six, The Age Of Reason Begins. Where did that leisure time come from, I ask myself now, looking back... it never seemed available before. Of course, I still have the same 24 hours I've always had, I'm just more committed to seeing ways of using them more effectively. For me, making New Year's Resolutions involves a thorough review of the year that has passed by. This year, taking stock of where I find myself, the process is a dizzying one; I've probably learned more in the last single year, than in most of my previous decades all crammed together. Learning things worth knowing, I mean.
When talking to my dad, who lost his sight this year, I learned of the duty to see -- not just look, but truly see -- as much as possible while we all still can... because one day the light goes away. When hearing from a friend who is now far from Canada, reluctantly back in her homeland, having to watch what she says and to whom she says it, for fear of losing her life, I learned the need to appreciate the treasure of our Western ideal of liberty, how precious a gift that freedom of worship can truly be... because in too many corners of the world there are those who would take that light away. And when I witnessed the inspiring example of a fine young lady who lost her mother yet never lost her Faith, becoming a mother in her own right, seeing the light in her eyes as she holds her precious daughter, I renewed my understanding of the power of Faith and the blessings of family; for without a constant renewal, a reconnection to a feeling of purpose, and a desire to progress towards a better version of oneself, so as to be of greater service to the others with whom we share our lives... without that renewal, the light of Faith fades away, leaving each soul in the darkness of a solitary despair.
There were many other lessons, each different yet each having one thing in common, in that they all served to remind me that there was much that I knew, had foolishly forgotten, and desperately needed to remember.
It's funny how so much of the small wisdom we can achieve in our small lives, comes to us really as re-learning... these are all lessons that deep down we already knew, just needing a little combination of courage, humility, and faith, in order to see them in their true clarity. And glory.
May 2008 see us all renew our faith in progressing towards a better future. May we all rejoice in the coming new year... taking "rejoice" in its literal sense: finding happiness after great sadness... Living in Hope.
...and may God Keep Our Land, Glorious And Free