There’s so much focus on what went wrong in 2016 – celebrities who died, the political landscape, escalating (so it seems) death and destruction in the Middle East, just for starters – I think we need to focus on what went right this year.
Speaking of sports …
Here in the Cleveland area, there’s a couple of easy success stories to begin this essay. The Cavaliers won their first NBA championship, ending a major sports drought of 52 years in this city since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. LeBron James is the star. His decision to return to Cleveland after four years in Miami sparked the championship.
In the fall, the Indians took the Chicago Cubs to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series before coming up short. Still, the Indians won the American League pennant with a group of young players who have us Indians fans excited for the future.
And for my Chicago-area friends: The Cubs ended more than a century of misery by winning their first World Series since 1908. Good things happen to those who wait. And wait. And wait …
Across the country …
The National Park Service turned 100 years old in August. There’s a good New Year’s resolution: Let’s get outside more.
Thanks to vaccinations, measles was eliminated from the Americas in 2016, and global malaria deaths have dropped 60 percent since 2000.
The United States had a successful summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Let us count them one by one …
Personally, it’s easy to be pessimistic, to think about what I don’t have instead of counting my blessings. So, let’s count a few.
- I started a new job in January. As a driver for REM Ohio, I work with people who have “developmental disabilities,” adults who need assistance with their daily lives. It’s not an office job. I’m on the road a lot, picking them up at their homes and bringing them to our day program center, then taking them home late afternoon. It’s rewarding and fulfilling on many levels.
- My health remains very good, something I hope never to take for granted. I walk/jog a couple of times a week. I donated blood several times this year (although I passed out twice, so I’m not sure I can continue – and those were the only sick days I took this year).
- Because of my full-time job, I don’t volunteer as much as I’d like, but I find time to assist at American Red Cross blood drives on the occasional Saturday and with special projects through our church. I’ve been volunteering with Destination Imagination, an after-school creative problem-solving activity, for 10 years and will lead one of the activities in our region this winter.
- My wife’s part-time job evolved into a full-time position this summer.
- My mom celebrated her 80th birthday this fall. We took her and Dad to a show at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland and dinner afterward. Mom and Dad have been married 57 years.
- I reconnected with some of my high school classmates in the Pittsburgh area at a picnic this summer. I hadn’t seen them since we graduated in 1978.
- We are blessed with a wonderful landlord. We’ve been in this house three years. We eventually plan to buy our own, but we’re in a great situation right now.
- Our three sons are healthy and have good jobs. We are blessed to see them often, including our middle son who moved to Denver in the spring. Closer to home, we’re grateful for our two cats, healthy and as affectionate as cats can be.
- We live in the United States, where we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. We have money in the bank, and two dependable vehicles (even if one of them is 20 years old). So often we overlook such things. We shouldn’t.
- Most of all, we have our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus gives life meaning.
I’m glad there’s something better than this earth when we die. Especially in 2016, I don’t see many “year in review” stories like I usually do. We aren’t thankful for much these days, especially how the year is ending. So, I look beyond 2016, beyond the day-to-day struggles of life, to a time when all the bad stuff will disappear and life will be perfect. Literally.
That day is coming. Possibly in 2017, possibly much later.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hassles of our lives, but there is a bigger picture.
In 2017 …
In 2017, I plan to focus more on things I can control.
So much of what we argue and complain about belongs to others: celebrity news, Washington politics (if they didn’t take such a big bite out of my paycheck, I’d ignore them completely), professional sports. How much influence do you and I have over those issues, really? That’s why we argue so vociferously without any resolution. There is no resolution. At least, not one that belongs to you and me.
So, what can I control?
How I relate to my family.
What I do with my time.
How I approach my job, and how well I do it.
What extracurricular stuff I do.
How I treat people, both friends and strangers.
The music I listen to, the TV shows I watch and the books I read.
How I treat my body – the food I eat, how much I exercise. How I respond to illness/injury should that happen.
The way I drive. The way I react to the way other people drive. (I nearly caused a collision yesterday, lest I think I’m a perfect driver. Lord, give me patience.)
Happy New Year. Hope it’s a special one for you.