The year, she is so fresh and so clean.
Even better if you can start it in a body that’s not ravaged by a “farewell 2018” alcohol binge. I discovered a number of years ago how good it feels to start the year in a clean, rested human shell, versus one that has nausea, exhaustion and a headache. Not an auspicious way to start a new year.
New Year’s Day is a holiday I can get behind. The wiping of the proverbial slate feels as if a weight has been lifted from our collective shoulders, and we can sally forth into the next 12 months with the hopes of getting it right this time. Or is that only me? Probably the rest of you are spot on from Day One.
You might think I’m about to regale you with New Year’s resolutions to raise your heart rate and drink a billion ounces of water every day, or populate your gut biome with kimchi and sauerkraut, or even call your mama every week. I’m not knocking any of those (all excellent ideas) or resolutions in general, though I do wonder why it takes one particular day on the calendar to jump-start promising behaviors.
That said, I do have one resolution I’d like you to entertain.
Here’s your word of the year: ahimsa. The Sanskrit word for nonviolence is part of the yoga sutras, an ancient scripture. Attend enough yoga classes and you’ll encounter a teacher who wants to theme a class around the idea. I surely have.
It’s a beautiful concept, this commitment to not harming any living thing, be it people, animals, the environment and even, most definitely, our own selves.
But I’d like us to go one better. While we can intend no harm, can we also make every attempt to leave people, places and situations better than we found them?
Perhaps this sounds too monumental, like too much work. It’s already challenging enough to improve ourselves, you say. Now you want us to help out everyone and everything else? How will I ever keep up on all my Netflix shows?
Friends, it doesn’t have to be big. How about picking up one piece of trash that you see when you’re walking down the street or in the break room at work? Or close a locker door in your gym’s changing room that somebody left gaping open so nobody bonks their head on it? Give somebody a sincere and specific compliment (keep it appropriate, people). Scratch your neighbor’s dog, and tell him how handsome he is (the dog, not the neighbor; well, maybe him, too…?).
Or go bigger. Volunteer to help maintain a hiking trail. If you have a pleasant interaction with a service person, call back later and tell their manager how much help they were. You’ll probably encounter a wary supervisor at first — nobody ever calls to praise, only complain. Stick a $5 bill in one of your returned library books.
Indubitably, there will be moments or even whole days or weeks when you will not feel like contributing anything positive to anyone or anything anywhere ever again. Trust me, I’m familiar. But these are probably the times when you most need to do it. One small charitable act is likely to part the black clouds of despair, at least for a few moments. Plus, there’s the other part to this whole being a force for a good thing — the people around you will notice.
A person is much more apt to be kind to the next person they encounter after you’ve complimented them on being such a thoughtful mother to their kids. And if somebody catches you doing a good deed, such as picking up trash that wasn’t yours, that’ll sure throw them for a loop, won’t it? Human beings are good at being inspired and imitating others, so perhaps they’ll pick up your good habit.
There you have it, readers. Consider the gauntlet thrown. I double-dog dare you to better your little slice of the world, one tiny act at a time. Let’s meet back here in one year’s time and compare notes.
P.S. During the writing of this, I stepped away from my desk and returned to find an unknown entity had placed a festive Lindor truffle on my keyboard, as well as the keyboards of several co-workers around me. How delightful. People already are out there doing good.