Starting Over

A new year. A new chapter. New opportunities. That is absolutely right. Why not? So much is possible with a new lease on life.

Waking up, finding yourself able to breathe in and out without any bodily pain – isn’t that enough reason to be grateful for? Are you living in an area far from war and bombing? Definitely another very good reason for gratitude. If there is food on the table, no matter how humble, we can still say thank you. There is a whole list of things to be thankful for. If we look around us carefully, we will find reasons to breathe out, thank you.

On New Year’s Day, I felt loss over the fact that each new year took me further away from loved ones that I had lost in previous years. I know those who feel bereaved will understand this sense of loss. You are going into a new year without your loved ones. The sense of separation is greater at that point than at any other times of the year. But if we upend that thought, we get a totally different perspective. Instead of going further from them, instead of the years with them becoming more distant, the opposite is happening. As the days pass, we are moving closer towards reunion with our loved ones, we are being propelled to that ultimate end. So, one should really rejoice for the new year and stop mourning the loss of the old year and the overtaking of the old by the new. 

Other things to be happy about the new year: Human beings are amazing creatures. There is room for improvement in each one. Younger pastors start out as boring preachers. It takes years for them to become dynamic preachers sought out by other churches in the middle of their careers. That means there is hope for everyone. There is room for improvement in all of us- there is room for improvement in our relationships and friendships. There is room for improvement in our professions. There is room for improvement in our relations with people, neighbours, traders, service providers, medical providers, all the people who have influence over our lives. Their services help us, and for that reason we need to develop better attitudes towards them. Avoiding a visit to the dentist does not help our teeth to get better on their own. Treating neighbours nicely helps them to respond in like manner. Showing respect to people who work in shops, restaurants, and any other service providing outlets, makes you a better human, and makes their day.

Our lives can improve. People can be set free from alcoholism or any other addiction. It is such a wonderful thing to be a human being, to be given the opportunity to walk this earth, warmed by the sun, fed by the rain, and in possession of sufficient air to breathe. There are always second chances. We are not left to stew in our mistakes if we don’t want to. We can always find grace to forgive and be forgiven. Let us take advantage of that. Let us be grateful for that.  

The great danger to life is if we decide to stop learning, stop improving. It is the equivalent of deciding to stop living. I know that there is a tendency to equate age with unteachability. We talk about how the elderly are set in their views and become impermeable to change. It is a stereotype that is applied to certain age groups. Like all stereotypes go, it is not true of groups, only of individuals. Everyone at any age can change for the better. We can practise this upon ourselves. Are there bad habits we want to give up? Behaviour is not genetic; it is learned. It can be unlearned. Are there old mind-sets we want to be rid of? It is possible to replace a wrong mind set with a right mind set. I remember the late Dr I. Benwati telling me, ‘I am 75 years old and I am learning to use the computer. We are never too old to learn something new.’ He went on to write many beautiful autobiographical books that are treasures of local history today.

Change and improvement is not limited to learning new skills. The most important changes we make are to our attitudes, our thought patterns and our opinions. Confrontational relations can be improved when both members involved decide to be open about learning what the other sees wrong in them. Accepting what the other sees as wrong, and working on it so that there is a visible improvement will in itself go a long way toward creating a smoother relationship. The people who have the greatest chances of happiness are the ones who are willing to exchange wrong thinking for new ways of thinking that are right and good for them. Why resist something that will make our lives better?