Another New Year's Day has come and gone. Out with the old and in with the new. Even time feels somehow disposable. I confess that this year I didn't even give the making of New Year's resolutions a moment's thought. Just as well - if I HAD made any resolutions, I'd likely be feeling guilty - or at least sheepish - for failing already. Why is it that it's so obvious to us what we SHOULD be doing - with our time, our money, our access to food, our health, our relationships, our faith, our LIFE - but so hard to maintain consistency over the long haul? Never mind. I'm sure there are lots of explanations, none of which will inspire me to a better life.
Somewhere in the shallow recesses of my memory, is the answer a young girl gave to a reporter who asked her what she wanted to do in 2010. Her answer - simply to be "nicer". She went on to say that "I'm already pretty nice but I just want to be nicer". I love it! The simplicity and clarity of youth! What if we all resolved to be nicer, and then figured out what that would mean in our day to day interactions and negotiations? It's a pretty vague goal - hard to measure and pretty subjective - but still a goal worth setting, I think.
In fact, as compared to business models that are based on a results based approach, or even an approach to life that is purpose driven, I'd like to suggest that humanity would be well served if we opted instead for a character based approach to life and all its layers. I'm defining character according to qualities like integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, honesty, diligence, humility, generosity - and yes, general niceness.
If I were to identify a goal for 2010 - and even for the rest of my natural life, however long that may be, it would be to be more fully human. I want to lean in to life - to live in a way that challenges ALL of my senses and ALL of my potential and ALL of my energy. Not recklessly or sporadically, but consistently and sustainably. I want to embrace life and live it in the company of others who also want to embrace it. Embrace it, not milk it or exploit it or deplete it. I want to take out and give back. I want to make the world a BETTER place - a more just place, a more human place. I don't want to waste time feeling guilty - for the advantages that I have inherited - or sorry - for the disadvantages that others have inherited. It's a luxury to be able to choose how I will live. So be it. I HAVE the luxury and I don't want to squander it. To do so when others are literally dying for lack of it would be inexcusable and wrong.
I have spoken about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals before - a set of 8 goals agreed to by 192 Nations at the turn of the century. Goals with specific targets to be achieved by the year 2015, which, if accomplished, would go a long way toward alleviating the most horrendous manifestations of poverty and suffering in the world. Many of us are working away, trying to hold our governments responsible to the commitments that they have made on our behalf. But it's easy to point fingers - maybe a bit more difficult to figure out a way that WE can adjust our living. A way that we can "live simply so that others may simply live." There's a wonderful book by Yann Arthus-Bertrand entitled Home: A Hymn to the Planet and Humanity (2009) (see http://www.yannarthusbertrand.org/). Yann Arthus-Bertrand is famous for his photographs AND his commitment to raising awareness about the challenges facing humanity. It's a great book and there's also a film by the same name (which you can watch online for free at http://www.youtube.com/homeprojectFR#p/f/1/jqxENMKaeCU). At the beginning of the book, Yann says this:
Every day, we are assailed by bad news: hunger is growing, the climate is affected, species are dying out, resources such as water, oil, and metals are dwindling, and we are on the brink of a worldwide economic crisis. And yet most of us have not changed at all. We read the many reports from the scientists and economists, but still we continue down the same path as if we were suddenly struck by some inescapable intellectual blindness. It is as if, although we know about it, we just don't want to believe it.
One of my students at St. Stephen's University - Kyle Jaster - submitted, as his last journal assignment, a tongue in cheek suggestion for some North American Millennium Development Goals. I think he's onto something! Here they are -
Goal 1- Halve Obesity Goal 2- Halve the number of Chains (Restaurants/ stores) Goal 3- Stop exploiting other peoples land Goal 4- Halve the salaries of top 10% of the population Goal 5- Halve the number of lies told in the media Goal 6- All politicians must take ‘loving my international neighbour 101’ Goal 7- Put on 50% more clothing Goal 8- Think about 2 people a day other than yourself
Ok - so chuckle but then figure out how YOU are going to lean into this life you've been given! And maybe spend a little time coming up with your very own Millennium Development Goals. Some wise (and anonymous) person has said that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time (or something like that!). Seriously, I'm going to begin working on my MDGs - I'll let you know what I come up with next time!