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Recommendations for the New Year

It is hard to believe that another year has ended. We have clearly begun a new millennium. So much has happened during this past year.
Our world is forever changed because of the ...

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It is hard to believe that another year has ended. We have clearly begun a new millennium. So much has happened during this past year.

Our world is forever changed because of the horrific events of September 11, 2001. Those senseless acts of violent terrorism took the lives of thousands of innocent people. Thousands of families continue to mourn, thousands of children are parentless. As a nation, we are moving forward with a new resolve, but also with a sense of numbness and a profound awareness that our lives need to be lived differently.

Bias crimes are up. Teenage violence is escalating. The use of designer drugs
is escalating in all quarters of our community among all ages. The voiceless continue to cry out and have their voices fall on deaf ears. The bureaucracy is more focused on procedure and regulation than on empowering people to freedom and self-reliance.

So, as we begin a new year there is much to be grateful for, much to hope for and still much that needs to be changed and/or improved.

Each holiday season, I am amazed at the depth of people's generosity, whether it's Charlie Russo's Christmas Magic that touches thousands of little children around Suffolk County, or our local Churches and Temples, with their outreaches or our schools pitching in to touch people in need. This year especially has been profoundly touching. The many hands and hearts that come together is breathtaking and at times overwhelming. I only wish we could bottle that spirit of generosity and tap into it throughout the year.

People genuinely give of their treasure, but equally impressive are the growing number of people who are stepping forward to give of their time and talent. So many charitable efforts are effective and successful because of the generosity of people's personal human gifts that cannot be assigned a price tag.

Since September, I have been continually moved by people of all ages reaching out and sharing their gifts and talents in response to the tragic events of September 11th. So many school groups raising money, so many community groups sponsoring events to support those families among us who have been directly traumatized by the loss of a loved one. To watch these new connections develop is heartwarming.

Each new year, we all begin with a resolution that we hope to keep, but being who we are, usually by day two, we have broken every resolution we've made or even forgotten what we promised to do differently.

As I was thinking about this New Year, a couple of things came to mind. I have become very sensitive to the lack of tolerance and respect that is subtly present among us. Every semester, in my sociology class at Suffolk Community College, students share horrific stories of hate, discrimination and blatant prejudice.

So, my first recommendation is that we work harder to respect all people, no matter what their race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. Respect costs nothing. It shapes everything. There is no need to speak disrespectfully to anyone. People in public service need to be more respectful. Those in need of those services need to be more respectful. Respect should be freely given without judgment.

We all have to work harder at being less judgmental of human circumstances and situations that we don't understand. We should never judge a book by its' cover. We should never judge another by the color of one's skin, the clothes one wears, the piercings or tattoos one has or the lifestyle one embraces. If we judged less and respected more, the violence that is infecting our community would be substantially reduced.

My second recommendation is that we need to work on patience. We always seem to be in a hurry to get to no place fast. In our racing, we sometimes fail to appreciate the richness around us. We miss so much. Our technology and active lives are cheating us of so many significant connections with people. Some of us are missing out on some important moments with our children. Others are missing opportunities to strengthen relationships with friends and loved ones. The possibility for new connections, new opportunities and new friendships gets lost in the maze to do everything yesterday. We all need to slow down and smell the flowers before they die.

My last recommendation is that we all need to work harder at giving of our substance and not our excess. There is not a charity alive that would not accept a material donation, big or small, but this recommendation is not about giving materially. Americans are
known for their material generosity. We all could work harder at sharing our talents more creatively and courageously.

It is clear to me that government is never going to get the formula right. It will continue to set people up for failure and enable people to be dependent on social welfare rather than enabling them to become more self-reliant. Welfare reform was supposed to transform or at least positively reconfigure the social landscape for the poor.

The poor are voiceless. As one who has advocated for them for over twenty-five years, it is my opinion that our welfare reform has done nothing more than deny people who are incapable of helping themselves. Our records show that there are less welfare dependent people, but they have not evaporated. They are still there, probably having less materially and being more frustrated with a plight most want to move beyond. Our system wastes so
much of your money that could be used to transform and empower people to wholeness.

Since government can't find a way, we in the private sector need to continue to create courageous initiations that are people centered. Initiations that will empower people to become more self-reliant and less welfare dependent.

We need people to share their gifts without conditions. I am optimistic that it is already happening. However, more people need to be free to reach out and share what they have so that the world can become a better place. We don't have enough Patch Adams, Mother Theresas, Dorothy Days, Doctor Kings, teens from Ward Melville or the "real heroes" living and deceased of September 11th, who give with a passion without any expectation of compensation, except maybe the knowledge that their act of human kindness can and does make a difference.

Woven into the substance of all of this is the fact that we all need to revive and reclaim the spiritual that lives within our hearts. We need to allow that positive energy, however it takes shape, to empower us to greatness, to be a people of hope.

As the New Year begins, I also hope that we realize the need for better, more sensitive human relationships at every age. Families, no matter what their struggles need to work harder at being families. Children have to work on strengthening their relationships with their parents and parents need to work on strengthening their relationships with their children. Spouses need to be more tender and attentive to each other and friends need to reclaim and reground the value of friendship. Life is not the same. We have been painfully reminded that we are all vulnerable, not invincible, that all life is sacred, but temporal. We will not live forever. Thus, whatever we can do to make life better, we need to do it now, for we may never pass this way again!

So, as the New Year unfolds, think about it, pray about it. Realize that you can make a difference too! Happy New Year!