JANUARY 1, 2017

It is what it is, but it can be whatever you make of it.  For many a new year presents a chance for new beginnings.  New Year’s resolutions represent good intentions. What you make of those resolutions will determine what kind of a new year you make for yourself.

A few years ago I took some acrylic painting classes. I soon realized I would never become another Van Gogh or Renoir, so I decided to take the new knowledge I gained and paint for the sheer enjoyment of splashing colors on the canvas and feeling like a kid again. Before beginning our first class session the instructor brought out a large metal bowl with a striker and asked us to sit in a circle.  As she began striking the edge of the bowl the room resonated with the most soothing, reverberating sounds I’ve ever heard.  An air of calmness surrounded us and when the sounds stopped, we were ready to focus on our painting projects. As I focus on the new year and its blank canvas that is before me I am reminded of another new year many years ago.

The new year of 1937 began in the midst of a turbulent world. The country was struggling to dig out of a recession. The average cost of a new house was $4,100, but to rent a house was only $26 per month.  A gallon of gas cost 10 cents; the cost of a loaf of bread was a mere 9 cents; one pound of hamburger cost 12 cents. A new Ford automobile cost $850.  The average income per household was $1,780 per year. The population was 128,824,829. The unemployment rate stood at 14.3% down from 16.9% in 1936. The unemployed numbered 13.5 million people.

It was the year the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened, The Hindenburg burst into flames while being moored in New Jersey, and Amelia Earhart vanished from the face of the earth while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Walt Disney released the new movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and John Steinbeck published “Of Mice and Men.”  World tensions were high as Japan and Germany were making war noises.

A young couple living in mid-America with an eight year old son found it difficult to make ends meet.  It became even more difficult when they also found out they were expecting an addition to their family.  Two years earlier they became parents of a baby boy, but lost him at the age of 18 months to a condition that is easily curable today. The father had only an eighth grade education, but he was by no means stupid.  He grew up as one in a family of thirteen children.  After the eighth grade he was out working in the cotton fields to help his parents make ends meet.  He became self-educated and excelled in English and math. He did whatever was necessary to feed, clothe and house his family.

These were my parents and this was the world I was born into in November, 1937.  If there was ever a time a young couple needed a singing bowl, it was certainly during these turbulent times.  Their faith and leaning on each other helped them make it through those tough times.

To say history repeats itself is redundant.  But today certainly seems to mirror those days of 1937.  The U.S. population today is 318.9 million with the number of those unemployed stands at 7.9 million which represents a 4.9 percent unemployment rate.

Today we are given a New Year—a clean slate, a new beginning.  It is up to each of us to paint our new year with our hopes and dreams; then choose the right colors to make those dreams a reality. Perhaps it would also help if we each had a singing bowl with a striker to help us accomplish this task.