In the days throughout my childhood and young adult years, when I faithfully kept a daily diary, Dec. 31 was special.
On that day, as I crawled into bed, I did my yearly summation. I carefully looked for significance, for meaning, for continuity, for failure, for promise found in each day of the now-finished year. I tried to be profound, and I was always hopeful. Even as a youngster, I believed God had his hand firmly on my life and that all would be well.
I don’t summarize any more, but newspapers do. “The year in review” they call it, which is really just a way to fill space in the holiday season when most of their staff wants time off and no one wants to do interviews or attend meetings. I know; I used to do that for a living.
Those reviews aren’t too bad, especially in the local paper, as they focus on the triumphs as well as the tragedies. Magazines and online sources are worse; their summations seem to point at one tragedy after another, as if our lives have been defined by neglect, violence, betrayal and hopelessness.
How depressing. And how inaccurate. Even where there are tragedies–like the persecution and massacre of Christians and other minorities by ISIS–there are the generous responses of other human hearts, as if they’ve been waiting for that need to reach out.
Just in my own town, reaction against a proposed hotel has brought together people of all ages, all walks of life and all religious and political persuasion, uniting for a common cause, agreeing to be civil and reasonable toward the opposition, supporting and using each other’s gifts, making and appreciating new friends. Whatever happens with the hotel, this large group of people will forever after have an affinity for each other in one degree or another.
While some bemoan the fact that they can do nothing in the face of worldwide need and so don’t even try, others makes loans as small as $25 to third-world people trying to start businesses through KIVA; Catholic Relief Services is first on the scene wherever tragedy strikes, leveraging my few dollars into mountains of help because so many work together.
Over the year, young students from my church have made mission trips to share with the less fortunate in other parts of the country; thousands of pounds of food have been donated to the local food shelf; dozens of quilts have been made for the needy; mounds of toys and gifts piled up under Christmas trees in churches all around town, to be distributed to those whose luck needed a little boost.
Kids skateboarded in a new park built through sweat, fund raising and cooperation. The Land Trust acquired more land that will remain public to be enjoyed for years into the future. Women cooked and baked and took the results to churches for funerals to help feed the grieving. Musicians played at nursing homes, adults read to first-graders in Reading Buddy programs. Neighbors watched each other’s pets during vacations, while others provided rides, shoveled snow, or just shared a cup of coffee with someone who was feeling low.
The tragedies do occur as life unfolds. And where is God? He’s there with OUR helping hands, whenever we respond to his quiet nudge to be part of the solution, to speak softly, to be kind where it’s undeserved, to support rather than tear down, to be patient with the unlovable. I see it all around me. I choose to focus on those things.
If I were still writing a yearly summation of my own life, my heart would swell with the gratitude I feel at the evidence of God’s hand everywhere, every day. Faith, hope, love and God’s presence are the strongest lights in my world.
And, icing on the cake, I have a wonderful husband to share it all with. So yes, 2014 was a wonderful year. I await 2015 with eagerness. I wonder what gifts and opportunities await.