It is a year that I am not sorry to see go. The personal losses have been too high, the political climate too volcanic, the rewards of hard work seemingly too few and far between. So it was only fitting that my husband broke a rib one day before Christmas, temporarily confining him to the couch, and we all got sick. Merry Christmas.
Still, there was the joy of squeezing together on the couch (the one my husband wasn’t on) with our four younger children to video chat with their older brother, who is successfully making his way in California. California! There were gasps and squeals of delight as long-anticipated gifts were pulled from under the tree. And there was the comfort and joy of knowing that despite the losses and bad breaks and struggles, we were still together – in spirit, if not in person.
When there are no guarantees that our publicly elected officials will act in the best interests of the public or that getting up and going to work every day will secure an easy future or that the people we love most will be here tomorrow, maybe that is enough. To work, not for the distant reward, but for the pleasure of doing something well today – be it writing a story or building a house or serving a neighbor by delivering their mail or bagging their groceries or plowing their street. Let the act of creating and constructing and serving be its own reward.
And if people disappoint you, as they will. Or you cough so hard you break a rib. Or you start the New Year with a fever and a sore throat, tucked up in bed, be thankful for the bed. Look for the beauty of a bright-morning sunrise. Listen for the joy of children laughing, even if your own children are far away. And love the people around you by thanking those who deliver your mail or bag your groceries or scrape the snow from your street. Get to know their names. Support measures to enact a living wage. Or as the Golden Rule says, “treat others the way you’d want them to treat you,” (Matthew 7:12).
In a community or in a country – like in a family – we depend on each other. Maybe this is why Jesus was so big on “love one another” (John 15:12). Because life is hard. And when one person is hurting, we are all hurting. So we should do what we can to help those whose struggle is greater than our own – no matter what side of the political fence (or the national border) they are on or how they ended up on the street or in a rehab facility or in a detainment camp or on your couch. As a wise man once said, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too,” (Philippians 2:4, NLT).
So, no matter how this year has treated you, or what hardships you face, I pray that love and comfort and joy will be there too and that you will find a way to share them with others. Together, let’s make this a better New Year.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Christmas Cradle and four other books in the Lantern Hill Farm series, celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.