(Editor’s note: This is an updated reprint of a commentary I have posted the last few years at New Year’s.)
I’m not much on making New Year’s resolutions. The history of failure to keep them weighs heavily and who needs more of that?
Still, the idea of a fresh start appeals to me. There is the inherent desire to discard all the mistakes of the previous year and at least consider the possibility of not making them again in the new year.
That’s not exactly the definition of optimism but, then again, I’m not an optimist.
President Ronald Reagan surely was an optimist. He loved the story about the boy who was shown a pile of manure in a stable. Instead of showing disgust, the boy jumped on the pile and started digging. “With all this manure, there must be a pony in there somewhere!”
Now that’s optimism. I would have looked at the pile and thought about the smelly job of hauling it away, but then got busy with my pitchfork. In that way, I am my father’s son.
My late father was a man who lived his life by always doing what had to be done, while keeping the complaining to a minimum. But in taking on the task at hand he was always moving forward… sometimes at an imperceptibly slow pace or with setbacks, but still the motion was decidedly positive.
With his head down, his gaze was more toward the steps in front of him than the horizon. The goal may not have been lofty, but it was practical and, yes, even hopeful.
In the “pony” scenario my father would have quietly cleaned away the pile of manure and then felt reasonably accomplished by finishing the task. He would not have been disappointed there was no pony, because he would have never expected one.
I doubt any of this sounds very inspiring, especially to you who have set goals for the New Year and plan to keep them. I’m always impressed when I meet people who have lost weight, committed to a better diet and exercise or taken that trip that’s been on their bucket list. You have overcome lethargy and routine and improved your lives. That’s impressive.
My plans for 2019 lack specifics, but I am nevertheless hopeful. Benjamin Franklin said, “Be at war with your vices, peace with your neighbors and let every New Year find you a better man.” That’s good counsel. Just try to be better.
My father’s journey resulted in a life well lived. It was not one of great accomplishment and he did not leave behind a box-checked bucket list. But he left the horse stall clean, if you know what I mean, and did 10,000 other things that just needed to be done.
That’s progress, and progress is linked with hope. If you are hopeful you will not be cynical. I have no specific resolutions, but I’m excited to find what the year will bring.
Let’s go forward and see what happens.