A few hours into 2010, I finally made my New Year’s resolution. This was something of a big deal since I had never made such a resolution in all my adult life.
As a kid I used to make an annual resolution, usually to be more obedient to my parents, or more kind to my brothers, or to put away my toys and clothes – things I should have been resolving to do everyday anyway.
Somewhere in my teens, I decided that New Year’s resolutions were artificial and contrived, not thinking that the failure to keep them was hardly a reason to reject them. So rather than make an annual pledge, I resolved to live “each day as though it were my last” – brave words from someone who knew very little about the world and his own limitations.
So I went without the “artificial” annual resolution for many years until I was in my parish church yesterday on New Year’s Day, for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. Whoever would have thought that I would be writing the year “2010” on my check to the church that morning, I thought. When I was growing up, 2001 was a “Space Odyssey,” and we all thought that by 2010 we’d be traveling in flying saucers like the Jetsons, and living on the moon.
Yet here I was on the first day of a new decade in the 21st century, standing in a church built in the 1860s, praying the same basic prayers as my father and his father, seeing the future not in some grand technological leap, or in some ethereal hope like world peace that my generation used to rally around. No, my hope for the new year was in Jesus Christ, who was present as always in the Eucharist, and in the love of my wife and the bright eyes of my children.
Despite the many setbacks and disappointments in my life, and the dreams of material things that would probably never be realized (and perhaps for the better), I was thankful, immensely thankful, for the simple but everlasting things I had.
So I resolved on New Year’s Day to express this gratitude by writing thank-you notes. Not thank-you e-mails, or thank-you phone calls, or (heaven forbid!) thank-you Twitter or Facebook messages. But handwritten, simple thank-you notes.
I started to make a list in my head of all the people to put on my thank-you list. As I watched our pastor receive the gifts of bread and wine and begin to offer them for us at the altar, I resolved to put Father Gary first on the list. He had two assistant priests when he started as pastor a few years ago, and now is the lone priest, as the other two have moved on to other parishes. Yet Father Gary hasn’t complained to his congregation, and has kept the parish of 3,000 families running smoothly.
Next on my list: my wife, my two boys, my parents, my two brothers, other relatives, coworkers. The list has gotten long, and I’ve yet to buy the stack of thank-you cards from the local Catholic bookstore.
I will get the job done though. Maybe you can make a similar resolution. Just think of the person you wish to thank pulling out the daily mail from the box, expecting the usual array of bills, catalogs and junk, and seeing a small hand-addressed envelope from you. It will be a small, personal touch sticking its head up amid a mass of instant messaging. Most of all, it will be a triumph of personal love that this one person will likely remember forever. And you will feel better, too.