This is the time of year when season’s greetings, holiday and new year’s wishes, regardless of religion, culture, ethnic background or heritage, fills the air. We shop for gifts, send cards (digitally, of course, these days), attend parties, dinners and festive gatherings. Oh, and we gain the 10 pounds that we resolve to lose every new year.
Despite the roller coaster pandemic warnings that again seem to be popping up, many of us, albeit slowly, are once again trying to get back to a new ‘normal,’ venturing to get together with family, friends, loved ones and colleagues. Starting to travel again, perhaps taking that deferred and much needed vacation or simply taking a break from work or school or the anxiety of the last few years.
Looking back at 2022, it would be nice to say this pandemic is behind us, but just a few days ago I heard a new word – “tridemic” – which I’m sure will make it into the mainstream vocabulary faster than the spread of any virus. COVID, Flu and RSV cases are increasing and new alarms about variants are once again threatening to overwhelm our health care systems. At best, more anxiety. At worst, more tragic losses and overworked health care professionals.
At the same time, hardly a week (or sometimes a day) goes by where we don’t hear of another tragedy – a shooting at a mall, a school, a store, a workplace, a playground or a street corner. Innocent bystanders or commuters subjected to random and often violent attacks. There are still too many homeless, abused, under-served people in despair and distress. In many parts of the world, the holiday season and new year means bitterly cold weather and for far too many, lack of food or clothing or access to basic health care.
War and suffering, displaced human beings, innocent battered and often shattered lives. There are still too many places in the world where there is no peace. Where instead of worrying about getting ahead in the workplace or being successful in business or striving to make sure children are getting an education and families are well nourished, they are concerned about stray bullets or brutal repercussions for expressing the wrong opinions. Where tolerance, understanding and compassion are absent. In this age of the Internet, we often too easily believe the myth that we live in a borderless world. It’s only borderless for those who speak, work and live in a free society. For others, the borders, and living life within them, are very real.
I am also pretty tired of politics – especially partisan politics, no longer measured by honest, but well-meaning disagreement. It seems to have become malicious and mean-spirited. What if there was a requirement that every elected official be prohibited from remaining a member of or being endorsed by any political party, allowed to only accept donations of $10 or less and only once from each person or business in the geographic region they represent. If we are lucky, it would make it more difficult for ‘independent’ elected officials to reach a consensus on self-serving laws. Instead of voting along ‘party lines,’ it might make it more likely that the laws that do make it through are meaningful to greater numbers of citizens! Oh well, I can dream, right?
In case you think all is lost, as we head into 2023, let’s turn to what’s right with the world. Once again, it’s been a year in which we have witnessed heroic efforts from our health care workers, first responders, emergency search and rescue personnel, as well as our finest and our bravest – not just in our nation, but around the world. So many dedicated, selfless people across the diverse fabric of our communities – communities that transcend borders. People from nations around the globe coming to the aid of those in need – in places they have never been, helping people they don’t know.
Ordinary people performing extraordinary feats of kindness, tirelessly giving of themselves for long, sometimes thankless hours to save lives, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide clothing and rebuild damaged houses and give comfort to so many in need. A woman and her family rescuing a helpless and lost elderly man stranded in a snowstorm, a police officer helping a stray deer stuck in a fence, neighbors providing clothes and food and shelter to strangers whose homes and lives have been shattered by tornadoes. These folks don’t make headlines but if look around, you can find everyday examples of the best in us. They are an inspiration to me, reminding me of what we should and can be if we just take the time to look around and try, not just this time of year, but throughout the year.
As this year draws to a close, once again I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all of you – people with whom I’ve worked, readers of my silly trivia contests or learned quotes and those who glance at my legal insights designed to provoke your thoughts that I post once in a while. I am thankful for the relationships, old and new. Those that have endured, those that have strengthened and those that have surprised me and sometimes, those I’ve lost. Each of you have helped enrich my life, personally and professionally and I am grateful.
Every year, as we move closer to a new year, I find myself at a loss for words that can adequately express my appreciation, so as I always do, I’ll just say, “thank you” and trust you will understand all that is behind those two simple words.