By Joseph Ross
We have come to the year’s last day, the end of 2010. Like any year in human history, 2010 brought us moments of rich joy and episodes of significant suffering. Whether we think of 2010 through the lens of the whole world or the lens of our own families and friends, each year is layered with life, in all its shades.
On the world stage, we saw wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan and we watched with growing anger as an oil company and its friends created a monumental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. We saw an earthquake in Haiti and felt the frustration that so much good will does not seem to have helped Haitians enough. We watched political turmoil in many countries. We saw an exhilarating World Cup in South Africa. We watched miners in Chile wait for rescue and finally escape the collapsed mine that could have killed them. We saw millions suffer from floods in Pakistan. We lamented a Florida minister’s threats to burn the Koran. We learned that Liu Xiaobo of China would receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but we would not see it because he sat in a Chinese prison. We watched WikiLeaks emerge as an international issue and we saw the end of the ban on Gay and Lesbian Americans serving openly in the military. And these are just a few of the world events that come quickly to my mind.
We lost many people who were important to the wider world, including historian Howard Zinn, Miep Gies, who hid Anne Frank from the Nazis, singer Lena Horne, Ronald Walters, who helped end lunch-counter segregation and journalist Daniel Schorr, just to name a few.
In the lives of our own families and friends, we all experienced many successes and accomplishments, losses and disappointments, most of which will never be public. Time tends to hand everyone the wide array of hopes and fears which humans experience.
The question for me is always this: How do I respond to the joy and suffering of the world and in my own life?
Do I fall into cynicism and despair that I cannot bring an end to war and torture? Do I sink because I can’t heal Haiti? I answer these with a clear “no.” Some will say that we should just ignore the problems we can’t solve, precisely because we can’t solve them. I don’t find that satisfying at all.
We can each do something to make the world more kind and gracious. Whether through our careers and vocations or our own creativity, we can each move the world toward justice. We may not see its movement but we can still be part of the urging.
We can consider those around us and listen more. We can grow in our regard for those in suffering parts of the world if we read more. There is always something we can do. If we simply choose to see the world as it is, learn why it is that way, and then act in some way toward goodness, we can each be a hand in healing ourselves, our families, our world.
This is my New Year’s wish for 2011. That I, and we all, might take more seriously the need to respond with hope to the world and the events of our own lives. We can do so much if we cultivate hope.
Thanks for reading and reflecting with me this month.