The upcoming winter holidays offer a wonderful opportunity for our reflection, renewal, and reform. We all need this period of respite. This year has been one of great tumult—home-based terrorism, disconcerting race relations and an extremely divisive election, among other major events. Hence, we look forward to these holidays as a period of essential relief from our everyday worries and woes.
Almost all of us will devote many hours to close family and friends over the next several weeks. These relationships are essential to our own well-being and to the well-being of our families and communities. Yet, in addition to being very rewarding personally, these ties have important implications for our public life as well. Our public lives can be positive projections of our personal lives.
We all owe so much to so many; other people have helped us become who we are today. Our own parents and families, perhaps a grandparent or a great aunt, a teacher, a friend, our spouse or our own children. Please take the occasion of the holidays to thank these people personally or to remember them if they are departed. Unbounded gratitude is a very valuable attribute.
Pay close attention to the children you will see in the malls this month. These little children have unlimited joy and enthusiasm for life, and they embody the holidays fully. We can learn much from these children about how we can approach our own life in the new year.
Really take notice of the people you encounter routinely in your office, your commuter train or your own local community. Do you say an inviting hello and offer a friendly comment when you encounter them? Can you help these people to have the spirit of the holiday season? After all, joy and warmth are the essence of these winter holidays.
And what about the “other Americans”—those who feel neglected, left out and left behind. Are these people in your own community or even in your own family? Have you reached out to them? Have you sought to bring them into the mainstream? Have you helped them develop better job skills, a better job or a better income? They too deserve to have the joy and warmth of the holidays.
As we look forward to the new year, most of us also will want to have an opportunity to do some things differently than we have done in the past.
We all lead quite insular lives, defined by place, demography and now, social media. As we approach the new year, we ought to reach outside our own bubble, whether that is our profession, community, social or ethnic/racial group. We will benefit from this broader discourse, and we will contribute to tearing down the walls that currently divide our society. We can begin today in our own community.
We also can reach in and reflect a little on how we might become a better family member, friend, colleague or community member in the new year. We only will be able to do this if we respect and love ourselves. Reflection through the eyes of others can help us to do both.
Do we have a clear sense of purpose that motivates our lives? It may be spiritual, humanitarian, community, or family-centered. Actually, the focus is less important than the fact of having a true purpose that is bigger than us. Purpose gives us direction and hope; without it, we are like a ship that has no mooring.