What's a New Year's Resolution anyway?

We often find ourselves reflecting during this time of year. It is a time when one year is closing and another begins. We may reflect on the past year and think of what we have accomplished, what we could have improved, and what we’d like to achieve during the year to come.

It’s always a significant time of year for me. Within a week’s time I always turn two corners, so to speak. My birthday being on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day is always exactly a week later. So my age increases and in short time the year does too.  

Something is different

This past transition has been especially meaningful for me. Sharing my birthday with Christmas hasn’t always been easy for me. For most, it’s a time to celebrate with family. For me, in years past it was always a competition for attention, and a reminder of my mother’s inability to be a “normal parent.”

Christmas/Birthday 2014 was different. For the first time I was able to wake up with a smile in my heart, welcome the day with gratitude, and truly celebrate my birthday as well as the “magic of Christmas,” as my other half’s mother so eloquently put it. I felt alive. I felt a sense of purpose, and I felt excited about 27 and what’s in store for me.

Defining a resolution

A week later comes 2015, and I am even more excited. I've never been one to really buy into the “new year’s resolution” deal, although in the past I've cited ones like “exercise more, eat healthier, read more.” This year I decided to look a little more into what a resolution actually means. One definition is: a firm decision to do or not do something. I think in the New Year’s sense, this is how most define it. Ultimately, we set these goals to work toward being the best version of ourselves.

However, I find the other definition more intriguing in applying the term to actions in this new year: the act of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. The matter being: are the intentions behind my actions, behavior, and energy focused on compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude, or not?

I recall from Ms. Carbrey’s drawing class at JMU that resolution in art means that the piece “feels” complete. It’s not a right or wrong or even quantifiable ending. It is simply the “feeling” of completion. You look at the work and you just know it’s done.

Life is a canvas

Exploring this idea, I can envision my life as a canvas and each Small Act I take, a stroke of my paint brush to work toward a resolution. In the end, I want what’s left to be a magnificent work of art, expressing compassion, love, truth, peace, and all that is good in our world. Of course, I cannot deny my humanity so there is no perfection in this piece. Mistakes and blunders are expected and provide opportunity for growth and learning. I also hope that my journey will inspire others to paint their true colors of compassion and kindness.

These Small Acts and this canvas, most importantly, allow me to explore what it means to be me. Identifying and growing my “self.” What it means to find a passion and live it. What it means to connect to a power greater than myself. Practicing these Small Acts is just that, for me. I sent a Christmas card to a homeless man who hasn't received mail in three years at the day shelter where I frequently volunteer. Several of my friends did too after I posted about it on Facebook.

I found out today that those cards "made his Christmas, and it was the best Christmas he has had in a decade"; simply by getting mail. I cannot even begin to express the joy that brings me. Furthermore, sharing that action with others and having them reciprocate is exactly why promoting this idea is so important to me. Change/progress/revolution starts at the individual level because of a conscious choice and media influences that choice.

Action on passion

It has taken me a long while to figure out what I’m passionate about and the courage to take action on it. Realizing that Small Acts Count helped me develop my passion. Now that I understand how I want to use my time and energy, I am reminded of an event that occurred one day while I was still at JMU.

As usual, I leave my apartment in The Mill early so I can get a good seat in class. As I’m biking down the sidewalk I see two small women attempting to push a car down South Main St. I pass them and in that fleeting moment my heart swells, skips a few beats, and I take the plunge. I hop off my bike, toss it into the bushes in some random yard, and run back to help.

“Where are you taking it?” I ask the ladies.

“Gas station,” one replies in a thick Spanish accent.

I start pushing with all my might. After about 10 minutes we get the car to the gas station on the corner. They shower me with gratitude. I run back to my bike and still make it to class on time.  

At that point in my life, I remember being confused about who I was and my place in the world. I used to ask myself, “why can’t I do things like that all the time? Why don’t I take more opportunities to help others?” That memory still gives me chills. I think it was at that moment I knew where my passion was, but I was still too afraid and uncertain about myself to feel confident enough to live it.

One Small Act at a time

Since then I often asked myself, “what can I do to help the world? What would do the most good? There are so many overwhelming problems, how can I help fix any one of them.” It seemed so daunting.

Now I know. My resolution isn’t one I’m going to complete in 2015. It will last a lifetime. Each day being a fresh start to practice Small Acts, and at the end of the day I will know that I have added another stroke of compassion, love, gratitude, or service to my canvas.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
— - Howard Thurman