Looking ahead to 2021 after a year of crises - opinion

Millions of us are alive with 365 new days available to us.

RINGING IN the New Year on December 31, 2019. No one had any idea what lay ahead. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
RINGING IN the New Year on December 31, 2019. No one had any idea what lay ahead.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
That sentence written by Ernest Hemingway could not be more true as 2021 is upon us. The past year was one of the most difficult in the history of humankind.
Day after day, week after week, month after month one horror after another occurred. Even with vaccines available, we will have to wait and see. However, millions of us are alive with 365 new days available to us.
Listen closely to a symbolic challenge and what type of response exists.
Everyday your bank account will be credited with NIS 86,400 – no balance carried over for the next day, no cash allowed to be kept in your account and every night what you had not used during the day would be canceled out. What would you do? Draw out every shekel, of course.
Now the human parallel. You have such a bank account – its name is “Time.” Every day it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose.
It carries over no balances. It allows no overdrafts. Each of us can invest it wisely!
Now that I finally have an iPhone, I can see how seductive it can be. Even though I am alone, whenever I hear the distracting dings, tweets and rings, I pick up the phone either to see who it is, or to read the item on WhatsApp. While I had only a plain cellphone, it was by my side and I never answered if I did not know the number calling me. Over and over, I recall my parents and my late wife, Rita, advising: David, use self-control. Sadly, in my life, the only time I practiced real self-control properly was when I had to focus on an exam, and in my, profession as a rabbi, writing a sermon or an eulogy or when I was in a summer camp and I had a major event to produce – and finally when I have a deadline for a story.
The rest of my life, like many of us, I run around in circles. Statistics inform us that the average person’s mind wanders 47% of the time. According to a Harvard University study, half the time you’re doing one thing but thinking about something else. What shall we do in 2021 about this “normal” pattern of life?
IN HER book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Dr. Angela Duckworth points out that since willpower is unpleasant and we don’t like to exercise it for long, one can create a “situation where it is just harder to be distracted.”
Her research on self-control in teenagers showed that while studying, the further their phone was placed from them, the higher their grades. She makes her point in this way “you literally need to hack your physical space,” to help one’s willpower to work.
Am I a scientist, a technician, a psychologist? No, I am just one of the plain folks like all of you. So I want to find a way to make my life, at 82, a little better.
I join with you in this desire. So, from experience, from observation, from victories of sorts and failures I would love to forget, I find it hard not to make suggestions. I have not studied the human mind, but based on how life has treated me, I can suggest some things that might work for us in this year ahead.
Yes, there are food shortages for families, the elderly, Holocaust survivors because this element of our population does not have the wherewithal to buy sufficient foodstuffs. There are organizations and individuals providing assistance to help combat hunger. We can do it too!
We all can make ourselves available for niceties to invigorate our society. Riding bicycles not just with our kids but helping to secure bikes for kids who do not have them. Picking up seniors with no families, and taking them out to appreciate this land in which they live. Going to the homes of people who have suffered in fires or floods, and those who need help with their children. Be a tutor for kids who need extra assistance to improve themselves academically. When you see people leaving trash at a forested area or in a playground or throwing bottles in the sea, speak to them; try to get them to understand that we should not pollute our country with items that could easily be put in a trash bin. Drawing upon my American Scouting memories, do help the elderly cross the streets, walk up the stairs or sit down on a park bench.
Look for the beauty of the land as you drive through it. Once in a while, turn on the Kol HaMusica radio station and find the poignancy of those compositions as orchestras and soloists play them. Take the less-traveled road instead of the same path we regularly follow. Why build such glorious buildings while others go unhoused?”
Are we stronger in our “broken places” ready to move on and achieve? I hope so. Do we labor to make our dreams a reality? I hope so.
Can we seek out the “darkness” of the land and make it bright again? I hope so. Are we using our willpower to intensify the strength of our own abilities? I hope so.
Will we ensure that our family is infused with sparks of excitement and joy? I hope so.
As Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
May we continue to sing out with hope in 2021 – it is so needed.■