January 1, 2013

Editorial: Resolutions for change


---- — Make today be about new beginnings.

It’s common for people to choose the start of the year to begin a new weight-reduction regimen or to quit smoking, and those are highly admirable ideas. It is always difficult to change your lifestyle — and stay with it — but making more healthy choices can translate to a longer life. And that is a reward for the people who do so and a gift to those who love them.

But we are addressing today a different kind of lifestyle change — one that is more mental than physical.

The world is a challenging and somewhat scary place these days, with nuclear-weapon threats rising, wars in other countries continuing and diseases still claiming too many lives.

The United States has just gone through a contentious presidential election that seemed to inspire more vitriol and bitterness than ever. People with strong feelings about politics seem to feed on the simmering discontent. That prompts radio and television dialogue and letters to the editor that are brimming with hateful language. The Internet is another conduit for anger.

The mass shootings of this part year — especially the latest one that killed 27 innocent children and adults in Newtown, Conn. — have left everyone with a fear that evil is lurking and ready to erupt in the most tranquil of places.

How can we react to a world that seems out of control? The best we can do is be determined to do our part — each individual — to change it.

We can decide that we will listen more openly when someone presents an opposing viewpoint. That, instead of immediately arguing or discounting what they say, we will really consider their ideas and look for compromise.

We can try, every day, to do one little act of kindness, something as seemingly insignificant as holding a door open for someone or as important as telling family and friends that you cherish them.

People who are estranged from their families can reach out, even if they don’t personally feel at fault, to try to re-establish ties. If rebuffed, be persistent.

We can use our money to do some good. Instead of buying something we don’t really need, make a donation to a local nonprofit whose cause you believe in. Even the smallest amount will be welcomed. Or buy a meal or coffee for a stranger.

Reach out to someone who could use help: a single mother, an older citizen who lives alone, a troubled teenager, a neglected child. One kind gesture in a life that is stressful or lonely would mean so much.

Doing good is catching. The beneficiaries of kindness will normally feel buoyed by your gestures. Their lives change for the better, even if just for a short time.

Yours will, too.