Turning the page on a new year and setting new goals

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, January 3, 2023

New Year’s Day has come and gone. Turning the page on a new year often involves resolutions — those promises we make to ourselves as we start a new calendar year with a clean slate.
Maybe it’s simple as running a marathon or just getting in better shape. You may have started a new diet, and if so, good luck. Or maybe it’s as life-affirming as doing one good deed a day.
A new year brings to mind the words of Benjamin Franklin, American inventor and diplomat, who wrote: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” Sounds like some sound advice from a wise man.
For many, 2023 couldn’t have come soon enough. Last year, 2022, was another difficult year in a string of difficult years.
The COVID-19 pandemic became part of a “tridemic” at the onset of winter. Inflation and gas prices squeezed wallets. A bruising election cycle wore down even the most ardent political junkies. A full-scale war ignited and raged at the border of Europe. And our planet continued to warm.
But such a bleak lens hardly leaves space for all the good that took place, the successes and triumphs and baby steps made in the direction of progress. So, as we look back upon a year that many wish to just forget, let’s make sure to be measured. Don’t overlook the good, and don’t forget the bad — we need both as we head into 2023.
The good we need for hope. Without a vision for the future, hope becomes impossible. The bad we need for change. Without recognizing the faults of our world, we will never rectify them.
And this past year has shown us plenty of things worth changing.
Measures of gun violence, income equality, and homelessness tell the story well enough. According to one year-end story, there were over 640 mass shooting in the U.S. in 2022. More generally, the U.S. averages nearly four gun-related deaths per 100,000 people.
Since the Great Recession, income equality has spiraled out of control. The rich have gotten richer while everyone else has gotten poorer. By one measure, in 2022 the wealthiest three families in America owned more than the bottom 160 million Americans.
And the homelessness crisis continued to spiral out of control, aided by soaring inflation, rent hikes and sharp property tax increase. A Department of Housing and Urban Development report from December noted that more than 500,000 Americans to be homeless on any given night. It is a crisis that our community is well aware of as homeless people can be found in Elizabethton every day.
Of course, there are more issues in America that must be dealt with — policing, race, weather changes, finding people to work, political extremism — the list goes on and on. The point, though, should be made clear. There is plenty to change.
But for all 2022 showed us needed changing, the good was plentiful, too. The pandemic, despite its best efforts, has not robbed us of our hunger to be alive and to be together. Ukraine showed us the value and power of a collective belief in self-determination. During the weather incidents in our communities across the U.S., it showed us the willingness of people to help each other.
This is to say nothing of those who gifted us with the small miracles of daily good, our neighbors and friends and colleagues who gave their every day to bettering our community and our world.
Now back to today. It’s a new day on the calendar, a new month, and a new year, but the same reality as the days preceding it. Nothing has yet changed. This means that all of the things that made last year so bleak are still with us. But so too are the things that gave us hope.
2023, then, will be what we make it. Sure, there is plenty beyond our control. But there is so much we can change. Many of the problems plaguing us as a nation, state, and community are rooted in larger societal factors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do everything in our power to make our community a more resilient, welcoming, hospitable place.
And, of course, not many societal ills can be cured in 365 days. But the difference between a good year and a bad year is trajectory. And trajectory is something we can determine. So let’s determine the trajectory of this year. Let’s let our hope guide us to making the changes we want to see. Let’s start today and continue tomorrow and make 2023 a good year.

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