January 16, 2009

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Endings and beginnings: A bittersweet combination

Cynthia DewesThis is a bittersweet time, to say the least.

It is when we wax nostalgic about people who have passed during the past year: loved ones or even favorite movie stars, sports figures, world leaders and others who have enriched our lives, personally or from afar. We are sad they are gone, and grateful for having had them.

We mull over the current bad state of world affairs, apparently a given in any year, and the events which led to it. We analyze the wars, political indifference or unwelcome interventions that may have caused all the trouble. We criticize the people responsible, whether they were malicious or unwitting in their intent, systematically greedy or just plain stupid.

We remember the wonderful personal events which have occurred, perhaps an important wedding anniversary or a new job opportunity. We mark the happy coming of children, “grands” and “greats,” or new friends we have met. We mull over the joys we have experienced in loving relationships or participation in nature, art or intellectual opportunities.

We also take part in the annual telling of stories. The television between Christmas and Jan. 1 was rampant with “End of the Year” pieces and photographs.

Commentators and pundits expounded on the significance of the year’s events and their meaning for the future. People made New Year’s resolutions to change themselves and their behavior. All these things point toward the good, toward a better time than what went before.

The fact that we are hopeful of the future, while still aware that we may fail in light of our past track record, is the bittersweet part of this time.

Luckily, God has given us an optimistic streak which, like failure, is part of the human condition. I like to think we also come equipped with a sense of humor to bail us out at low points.

So, in line with hope for good things in the New Year, I have a few to contribute.

Number one, let us hope that TV’s Judge Judy won’t need to spend 98 percent of her time adjudicating cases in which live-ins are the problem. It seems that promiscuity by any name leads to trouble. And, while I’m on a roll, I will add this corollary: Let’s dump the practice of unmarried living-in before it leads to more “unwanted” babies, not to mention neglected or murdered babies.

Let’s hope that those who need to will find or keep good jobs, ones which will support them and their families, be useful to society and allow them to enjoy work. We hope others may finish their educations, and discover how to live out fully their vocation to marriage, single or religious life.

Hope will certainly involve ambitions for our children. In order to help them, we may need to give them more time or at least rearrange our time so that we know where they are, what they are doing and with whom. We need to make sure that they know they are loved, heard and supported. We can even hope for maturity and understanding on both sides.

It may be that our hopes depend upon a healthier body or better mental health. We can hope for relief from addiction or pain, or the ability to accept inevitable physical decline and—yes—even death.

We can do this because Christmas brought the promise of salvation on which all our hopes depend. That is a lot to hope for, but we are talking here about a promise from God.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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