I drove past the local YMCA and noticed the jammed parking lot. Everyone has made New Year’s resolutions, and chief among these is shedding those holiday pounds. There is much about 2008 I’d like to shed, most notably the gloom and doom.
“Now is the Winter of our discontent.” The line from Shakespeare’s Richard III floats into my head. I can’t stop it. I was an English major, and the voices of poets carefully studied stay with me.
Discontent was very big in 2008. As a financial adviser, I got the message. While we may have “reason to lament what man has made of man” (Wordsworth, “Lines Written in Early Spring”), beginning the New Year by predicting doom will only get us a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of wringing our hands over 2008, we should grasp the promise of 2009.
We each need a plan.
Begin with an inventory: We are still here, our bodies more or less intact, and for that we should be thankful. Most people reading this still have a roof over their heads and a Neighborhood Development Department motivated to keep more of us that way. And we have a whole new year ahead of us without any mistakes.
Most of us know how to do the right thing: Be kind to others, help those who need us, be good citizens. All we have to do is resolve to do it. Resolution is easier said than done. The cars in the Y parking lot are bound to dwindle as good intentions meet everyday apathy. Local charities understand this. Last year, when we reached an unprecedented level of need, many of us cut back on giving, and yet it is giving to others that may restore us all.
A recession means that the economy is receding, shrinking. By withdrawing, we perpetuate the problem, like drought prematurely shriveling a leaf to a dried, brown curl. The winter solstice will naturally follow the autumnal equinox, but a winter of our discontent requires human intervention both to create and to banish it.
So how do we banish it? With what Wordsworth called “that best portion … little, nameless … acts of kindness and of love.” I cherish such memories from 2008: the client who brought me a refreshing snack in a festive gift bag for no other reason than she thought with all the bad financial news and many people demanding my time, I might not get time for lunch. “The flood of rapture so divine” (Shelley, “To a Skylark”), experienced when entering a room full of clients and being hugged from four different directions all at once. They repaid my reassurance with their own support.
Just knowing that one is needed and appreciated can transform drudgery. Imagine how kindness from all quarters could boost a community.
So now, while the shadows of naked tree branches are so stark that they appear as if outlined in chalk, remember that tender new leaves will soon emerge.
Use the indoor time to good advantage. If you haven’t done an inventory of family clothing, do it now. Pass along shoes, coats and clothes your children have outgrown; the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries can put them to good use.
Plan a garden – flowers for cheer and vegetables for bounty. For as Shelley reminds us in “Ode to the West Wind”: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”