Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change. -Jim Wallis, editor of "Sojourners"
The joy and hope of this new year are tempered by heaviness in our hearts as conflict rages abroad, and young lives are lost daily. Regardless of our religious, ethnic, or political orientation, we each feel the pain of this loss, and have great compassion for families whose loved ones are fighting abroad. May we take care not to get so swept up in the busy-ness of our lives that we lose touch with the heartache that many in our midst are enduring. Now, more than ever, it's essential that we bring the spirit of peace, love, and goodwill toward each other into the new year. May this be a time of healing, compassion, and reaching out--a time to transcend our differences, and strengthen our human connections.
How do we stay in touch with and convey to our children spirit and meaning peace, love, and good will? How can we embody each of these in our actions? What follows are some answers to these questions.
1. Speak from the heart.
Let people know either by your spoken words, or through notes you send, how much you love and care about them. Avoid the superficial and inauthentic. Reach deep into your heart and soul, and speak from these when you connect with others. Encourage your children to do the same.
2. Forgive someone.
Think of one person, past or present, toward whom you have ill feelings. Be it a parent, a sibling, a spouse, child, or someone who was once your friend, ask yourself if you can find it in your heart to grant them forgiveness.
Sit down and write a note of forgiveness to this person. This note is just for you. When you're finished, ask yourself if you're ready to make a phone call or send an actual note that helps mend fences. Talk to your children about your process and see if they have someone they need to forgive. Let them know that forgiving is one of the greatest gestures of generosity we can make.
3. Listen with compassion.
So often conversation tends toward the mundane. We go through the motions of talking and listening while our internal conversations ramble on. This year, try listening with an open heart even if you disagree. Listening compassionately simply means that you're making an effort to understand. Try putting yourself in the other person's place as you listen, and see what you can learn. Encourage your children to do this as well. Compassionate listening is another gesture of true magnanimity.
4. Stop and notice.
The rush-rush nature of life often compels us to engage in back-to-back activities without soaking in what we're experiencing. Stop, notice, and take in the small moments: the look in your child's eyes as you admire a drawing she made for you in school; the feel of your mother's arms around you after having been apart; the sound of your friend's voice a thousand miles away. Then, later, reflect. Take some time to write about subtle observations and emotions that you experienced just by stopping and noticing. Resist getting swept up in the swirl. Instead, stay present to the richness of each moment.
5. Make a difference for someone in need.
What can you do to make a difference in someone's life? My sister has a wonderful ritual of taking her children to a home for the aged each New Year's. She and her girls give homemade gifts to elderly people who have no families to visit them. My sister has shared many stories with me about the tears and hugs of the people she and her children have connected with. The small handmade gifts and shared conversation are priceless to the elderly people who would otherwise be alone during this time. Think of things you and your family can do to reach out to others.
6. Continue several of the above suggestions all year long.
If we each made the conscious decision to live in the spirit of peace, love, and goodwill every single day, our world would slowly start to change. For this new year, and all year long, remind yourself and your children that this essential change in our world begins with each of you. We can each be the candle that helps to light the world.
For those of you who have loved ones serving overseas, deepest prayers go to you and to those you love. May they be well wherever they are, and may, someday soon, we find a way to live in peace.