I look upon every New Year as a new beginning — a fresh start. Call it every man's birthday if you wish. It's a time when we can forget about our past and look to the future with promise and conviction.
There's no magic formula. The best way to improve the world is to start with the individual and there isn't anyone alive who can't stand a little extra reconditioning, whether it's the body or soul.
Every year I sit down at my keyboard and think of ways we can better our lives and make it more palatable. Without sounding overly spiritual — and that's not a bad thing — I would be the first to insist upon prayer in our schools.
I have the greatest admiration for an athlete like Tim Tebow who kneels on the sidelines of a football stadium and offers a simple prayer to God. Maybe his actions will have a contagious effect. Kids model their lives upon star-studded athletes and if prayer is good for the likes of Tebow, then perhaps it'll do wonders for others.
Even those in the non-Christian world can celebrate a faith that's comfortable to their well-being. Once you've taken prayer out of the schools, you've diluted the very premise of our existence.
While I'm at it, is there anything wrong with saluting the flag? I visited a high school recently and was appalled to see some students refusing to take part in the exercise. A voice came over the loud speaker asking all to stand and salute the flag. Half the students obliged. The others remained seated.
When the exercise ended, I asked the teacher about the nonchalance and his answer was one I didn't expect to hear. "It's voluntary," he told me. "Those who wish to salute will stand. Others will stay seated."
Let's put patriotism back into our schools and respect the attributes for which this country was founded. If students take a passive interest toward it, what does that say for America's future?
A holiday tree? No, it's a Christmas tree and it'll always be a Christmas tree. Go ahead and rake me over the coals if you disagree. It's time we reinstitute Christ back into Christmas and shun the naysayers in our midst.
Put a tree in your school but at the same time, observe Hanukkah and Kwanza. Only with such unity will we garner the strength to move mountains. There is no room in our society for bigotry. To all the bullies of the world, may your horns seep through.
Less with the opulent things and more with the modest. Place a bird-feeder on your tree. Adopt a pet from a rescue shelter. Make a donation to a worthy charity. Share what little you have with someone who owns less. A hug costs you nothing.
Get involved in your ethnic community by patronizing a church or organization. Get your children involved in their heritage and take an interest in their education.
Call an old friend and get together for lunch. Or just call to say hello. Patch an old wound and make a new companion. Find a good reason to get the family together. Distant relatives are only separated by miles, not thoughts. Visit a loved one inside a nursing home.
Open up a whole new world for yourself by visiting your local library and seeing the resources available. Be among those who oppose budgetary cuts in our municipalities. Help put music, art and shop trades back into our schools. Practical education is just as important as the required curriculums.
If time flies, it's only because people are trying to kill it. Make the most of your day and week. It's the most precious commodity we own. Oh, time is about money, huh? I'd rather think it's about good health, productivity, and family responsibilities. A million dollars won't do you any good in a desert with your leg broken.
That diet you said you were going to start this year? Forget it. It was the same resolution you made a year ago. Instead, try eating healthier and in moderation. Throw in a little exercise and presto! You're becoming the person you truly can be.
As resolutions go, one thing we shouldn't give up is "giving up." If you're suffering from an illness or poverty, if you're on the outside looking it, depressed and jobless, lost a spouse or broken a relationship, don't give up.
Put a little fight in your life and face the consequences with determination and resiliency. It's a new year — a new beginning — and a renaissance. Above all, don't drink out the old excessively. You'll only usher in the new with a hangover.
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Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Gazette. He contributes this regular column.