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Thoughts for a New Year


Most of us look away when we pass strangers. It is the expectional person who stops to help the woman maneuvering her kids and groceries up the staircase. We rarely give up in line or on the subway or bus. Locked into our automobiles, we prefer gridlock to giving way.

銆銆 These daily encounters, when they are angry or alien, diminish our lives. When they are pleasant, we feel buoyed. Yet when we sit at home and make resolutions, we think about what we can accomplish in private spaces锛歨ome, work. Too many have given up the belief that they control the shared, the public world.

銆銆 As individuals we can change the contour of a day, the mood of a moment, the way people feel. The demolition and reconstruction of public life is the result of personal decisions made every day锛歵he decision to give up a seat on the bus锛泃he decision to be patient or pleasant against all odds锛泃he decision to let that jerk take a left锛峢and turn from a right锛峢and lane without rolling down the window and calling him a jerk.

銆銆 It's the resolution to be a civil, social creature. This may be a peak period for the battle against the spread of a waistline and creeping cholesterol. But it is also within our will power to fight the spread of urban rudeness and creeping hostility. Civility doesn't stop nuclear holocaust and doesn't put a roof over the head of the homeless. But it makes a difference in the shape of a community, as surely as lifting weights can make a difference in the shape of a human torso.

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