I’m a “resolutioner”. A reflector. A list maker. An organizer. All traits that pair well with the end of the year. As a girl I would make time on New Year’s Eve to write my goals for the next year on a small piece of paper. I’d then put them in a special box that held my thoughts from the years before. It was always interesting to look back at the girl I was and dream about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. The words on the paper didn’t change a whole lot over time – I wanted to pray more, to be a better friend, to lose weight, exercise more, to have a boyfriend…to change the world. Yep – every year my most ardent wish was to be an instrument for the greater good and to make a difference with the time I was given on earth. I was a geeky, preacher’s kid with social work DNA – what can I say? And so the years have rolled on.
While 2016 was a solid, unremarkable year for my family (just regular life – thank goodness), it was an upending year for us – all of us – collectively as we witnessed mass shootings, a difficult election, protests, HB2 (in North Carolina) and were forced to look directly at our country, naked – not pretty. I can’t deny my deep disappointment in seeing a glass ceiling unbroken, worrying about what is to come in 2017 and wondering how I can guide my white children in a society where our unearned privilege causes so much pain. Recent politics in my state have even made my optimism in democracy waver. Frankly, 2016 made me weary.
But as ritual demands, tis the season to think forward and lean into the work ahead. I still want to eat healthier, be a better friend, take better care of the guy I finally got and save the world. What I’ve learned over time, however, is that I am not powerful enough to save the whole world. If that is my benchmark I will fail. So this year I want to use my voice effectively, bravely and often. I will focus. I will not worry what people think about me. I will not hide behind my privilege, I will call myself on it time and time again. I will do a better job of refreshing my spirit. I will open my heart to exploring new ways of seeing and understanding. I may join a drum circle? I will speak truth to power. I WILL NOT GIVE UP on my belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings and our shared right to happiness, safety and love.
To be of use
By MARGE PIERCY
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.