One of the (many) good things about living in a monastery is that one is spared all those end-of-the-year reflections, when people attempt to name the most significant events/people/products of the year just gone and predict the same for the year just coming. It is so wearing, and if one were to wait ten years, the lists would probably look very different. Those of a classical bent have much sport with Janus and ianua, of course, (I’ve done it myself), and I daresay tomorrow I shall be among the many saying something about Mary, the Mother of God, whose feastday it is. But today, what of today? Do we end the year with hope or despair, gratitude or an almighty grumble?
Poverty, disease, hunger, violence — they are still with us, as they were at the beginning of the year. Does that mean that the bright promise of 2012 is unfilled, that nothing has really changed? It is easy to forget that if we wish to change the world, we must begin with ourselves. If we see poverty as a scandal, we must examine our own use of material goods; and not those alone, for there is a spiritual and intellectual poverty that is just as crushing. If we believe that no one should go hungry, we do not need to go very far to find someone who hasn’t enough to eat, even here in England. As for violence, unless we address our own inner violence, we shall never free the world of the desire to wound and kill. The problem for most of us is knowing where to start, even with ourselves.
I think we can all learn from Lawrence DePrimo, the New York policeman who met a poor man with no shoes on. Instead of just passing by, he stopped and measured the man’s feet, then went into a store and bought him a pair of boots. A bystander captured this act of humanity and kindness on camera and soon the policeman’s action was all over the internet. Officer DePrimo was baffled by the fuss, but the important point is that he noticed the need of another and did something about it. Noticing was the first step, and that’s the same for all of us. Too often we just don’t see, so we do nothing. There can be no end unless we first make a beginning, and opening our eyes is the only way to start — whatever day of the year it is.