I often wonder, "Just what's in a 'Happy New Year?'" In a favorite coffee shop, "Happy New Year's" occurs all around me. No less than a dozen times already this early morning, people wished each other, "Happy New Year's." The common reply, "And, to you too."
Most New Year's greetings & wishes seem a bit fuzzy and meaningless. Phrases found perhaps on greeting cards, Twitter, or other social media apps. "May the New Year's be yours, surrounding you with everything you desire," generically sums it up. Nice, safe, and, rememberless. Listening to the many conversations all around me, each Happy New Year's greeting bare resounding commonality.
New Year's Wish for "Less"
Happy New Year's, for some, desires an absence or reduction of what is present. lol - As I write this sentence, a dejected woman says to another next to me, "I hope this new year is a whole lot better than the last. Less problems, less troubles, just less." As the conversation ensues, every patron hears of the woman's troubled year, "It just needs to go away!" Less conflict, less stress, less boredom, less, less, less . . .
New Year's Wish for "More"
For most, an addition of something, someone, or some event insinuates a Happy New Year. A coffee shop sets a stage for witnessing many New Year's expectations spoken and shared among friends. Two people sitting just to my left, one shares with the other, "I hope you get that position in the New Year!" To the right, a young couple, hoping to acquire a new home, "I hope we can get this loan."
Some look towards the New Year with expectation and desire for more. Wanting more than one currently possesses appears highly desirous. More money, more position, more wins, more notoriety, more love, more friends, more, more, more . . . . But, does "more" bring "Happy?"
To me, "more" often brings exactly that. More upkeep, more payments, more challenges, more repairs, more expenditures, and more restrictions accompany such requests. From my vantage point, more often results in more of the very thing one hopes is reduced or eliminate in the following year.
New Year's Wish for "Prosperous"
"Prosper" is often attached to a "Happy New Year's." Reading from a Christmas card sent to me by my sister, "Hoping you enjoy a Happy and Prosperous New Year." I like the word "prosperous." Prosperous means so many good and different things. It can point towards success in material goods. Prosperous may indicate a flourishing secured lifestyle. Perhaps, prosperous means security in friendships and loved ones too.
Thing is, in this coffee shop, listening to many the past three weeks, prosperous doesn't necessarily indicate happiness. Here's a thought. What about a . . .
New Year's Wish for the Unknown?
Mark Twain's words ring true for me, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain.
Perhaps, a Happy New Year hinges more on the unknown than the less, the more, or the prosperous? My Happy New Year's wish for you goes like this:
May the New Year bring unknown challenges, unknown friends, unknown surroundings, and unknown situations that will encourage you to explore, dream, and discover. In discovering, may you find your true meaning of a Happy New Year.
Just My Thoughts,
With all the "merry christmas" arguments from coffee cups to sensitivities, I sit here at a local McDonald's hearing the words repeatedly, "Merry Christmas." My thoughts begin to probe, "Just what makes a Christmas merry?" Vivid images flood my mind blocking out the activities around me at this moment; merry . . . hum . . . what's so merry about "MERRY?"
My Grandson opening his singing Christmas card. Repeating the words over and over again, "Santa Claus is comin to town" for the past three days, that's MERRY! Mom and dad still frown a bit at me for buying him that card as he repeats the phrase over and over again to the 3rd power!
Watching a little foster-girl clasp a dolly as it emerges from the Christmas' wrapping. She looks at me with smiling eyes, clutching the little dolly to her equally little body; MERRY!
Another grandson jumping up and down giddily with joy as he unwraps, "What I've always wanted" is pretty MERRY too!
Watching another grandson and his dad, my son, assemble a Hot Wheels race track. Watching my son be the dad I never enjoyed to a son, my grandson, who will never know that emptiness; MERRY!
Shooting his indoor basketball into the indoor basketball hoop his papa helped assemble, and playing B-ball with my foster-grandson; MERRY!
Witnessing grandchildren literally scream for joy opening their gifts; MERRY!
Sitting down for Christmas Dinner with eight little one's dressed in the Christmas pajamas; MERRY!
And, during our early Christmases this year, as our sons and their families live all over the United States, being able to give all thirteen of my grandchildren a huge papa-hug; MERRY! Very Very MERRY indeed!
So much of "Merry Christmas" revolves around children. Maybe that's why God chose to reveal His amazing love in such an infant-infantile innocent way: THE BABE IN THE MANGER. That's MERRY! And, for me, it's the best MERRY of ALL!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, your family, and friends.
Just my thoughts,
Loneliness. Just this week while meeting with several wonderful young missionaries, the troubling word "loneliness" surfaced. Having left her friends and family in the Midwest to live and serve in Africa, she begged the question, "What do I do with my loneliness?" Now that is quite a question; isn't it?
What is exactly does one do with this nebulous personal empty feeling of inner remote isolation? I offered a consideration, "What are the benefits of your loneliness?" Facial responses showed puzzlement. "Really," one responded, "Really, benefits?" A wonderful conversation ensued.
Value for Closer. Another young missionary blurted out, "Well, this loneliness sure reminds me that even though I am lonely, there are people in my life who care for me." His lovely young wife sitting next to him squeezed his hand gazing intently into his eyes. While the couple felt pain of Midwest friendships drifting away due to three years of living in Africa, they valued fewer yet closer relationships.
Empathy for Lonelier. Simon & Garfunkel released their smash hit song I Am an Island in 1966. The words at the end of the song offer rational for loneliness, "And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries." Once while visiting an old dying Zulu man in an African hospital in South Africa I asked, "How can I pray for you?" His reply in Zulu deafened me, "There is no one but me. I lay here on this bed alone by myself."
Before that old dying Zulu man stood a young missionary, me, who entered that 100 bed ward lonely and empty. Five years serving in South Africa drained me. In the midst of ministry and throngs of people, loneliness stalked. Yet, before me lay a hopeless, empty dying old Zulu man reaching out for succor.
Appreciation for Inestimable. "May I sing for you?" I asked the old Zulu man. His cloudy eyes smiled as I began to sing an old Zulu hymn, "Ngingenwe eMoyeni Wam." As I sang, that old man breathed his last breath right there in front of me. I left the hospital those many years ago appreciative for my Kathy, my sons, and my few inestimable friends. Friends I seemed to often overlook. For many, God surrounds us with friends. Often, we just fail to see them in our own busied pursuits.
Thankfulness for Awareness. Those young missionaries missed terribly their families, friends, and loved ones. In their pain, a new awareness sprang up. Surrounding them in that room were loving caring people. Outside that building, others existed in their friendship-realms too. And, now, relationships overseas in a new country among a diversely different people germinated. Blessed . . .
Loneliness produces benefits. It perhaps requires during life's journey that one stops and looks behind their loneliness-rock. A huge obstruction occluding friends in close unseen proximity. Behind that rock often springs forth what was always present; friends.
Just My Thoughts,
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.