You Are My New Year’s Resolution

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You are my New Year’s Resolution.

It sounds like the first line of a 1950´s oldie. But, in fact, I just made it up, and it could be one way to make this year’s resolution really count and keep counting.

My parents knew how to throw good parties; there was always a twist. On one particular New Year’s Eve party, the twist involved each guest bringing a symbol of their intended resolution. At midnight, after the traditional Times Square countdown and the popping of champagne corks, Dad summoned the crowd into the sprawling living space, where the warmth of a wood-burning stove reinforced his invitation.

Partygoers, young and old, took turns explaining the meaning behind their eclectic item. The chubby neighbor with astounding self-assurance did not need to provide commentary when, year after year, she pulled a full-size bathroom scale out of her purse. The lawyer from Dad’s law firm who, to the noticeable chagrin of his wife, was wearing tennis shoes with his navy pinstriped suit; he clearly planned on making exercise a bigger part of his life.

So besides the ubiquitous trappings of a traditional holiday gathering, including artichoke dip and the distant cousin with a penchant for spiked punch, I have vivid childhood memories of sophisticated folk playing “show and tell” with rather banal stuff — personal organizers, calendars, cookbooks, ladders, swimsuits, brooms, sports equipment, paintbrushes and telephones — even if I don’t remember what they all meant.

What I do remember, is how strikingly different the children’s resolutions were from those of the adults. While grownups focused on self-help issues — weight loss, time-management, overdue home improvement projects — the kids were more concerned about finally being good. Being good for them almost always had to do with relationships. Gadgets and toys, for example, meant a renewed commitment to share. Pointing to a brother or sister across the room meant this year would be argument-free.

With a bit of hindsight, I think the kids got it right. In one way or another they were saying, you are my New Year’s resolution.

We grownups would be the first to say building relationships is on the top of our list of personal priorities, if someone were to ask. But when in a blue moon we get the guts to ask ourselves on New Year’s Day how we wish to be different this year; we often do a flip-flop - I am my New Year’s resolution.

It’s understandable. We have experience in relationship building, and a lot of it is bad. It is easier to find a new friend, a new boss, or a new husband or wife, than to kiss and make up with the one we’ve got. We have a hard time pointing across the room and saying this year, “I want to love you,” “Whom I have offended,” or, “Who has offended me,” or both.

With the scourge of nurtured vanity, such a simple, childlike thing is now so hard and complicated.

Maybe we need a childish challenge to become child-like again. Here it is:

Take out a piece of paper. Fold it in half, then half again. At the top and to the left of each of the four boxes write the following sentences, in clockwise order: 1) Thank you. 2) Please forgive me. 3) I forgive you. 4) I love you. The paper should look like this:

Thank you

Please forgive me

I forgive you

I love you

Under each title, and following the same order, write the full names of the people in our lives who would benefit hearing these words from us. If it is hard to write the name, for one reason or another, use capital letters.

Then title the page, “YOU are my New Year’s resolution.”

The personalized sheet may not be appropriate conversation fodder for a New Year’s party, but it just may be the type of resolution that will really count, and keep counting, for us and for others.

God bless and Happy New Year, Father Jonathan

P.S. If you would like to send to me some resolutions that were inspired by this challenge, drop me a line. I would love to post them on the blog later this week.

P.P.S. This month marks one year for me as a columnist on Your loyal readership and feedback have made the effort well worth my while. Thank you.

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