A friend of ours told us last week that she had been ‘ticked off’ for wishing someone a Happy New Year! But it’s easy to understand that pessimism in January 2021: a new lockdown, Covid cases on the rise, insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C., people struggling to stay in or find jobs and a huge rise in hardship for many people. But despite all that, I would still like to wish you a Happy New Year! And I think it is worth doing, worth looking for some optimism, hope, new beginnings and positivity.
New Year is a time when we do try to do those things, summed up in the tradition of New Year resolutions. Even if we don’t make resolutions, I think we all recognise that spirit of wanting a fresh start. And we also recognise that our good intentions sometimes don’t last very long or get us very far! But it is worth looking forward with positivity and hope – our outlook and attitude count for a lot, even if we fall at some of the hurdles we set for ourselves.
On the flip side of this New Year optimism we also know that January is one of the ‘bluest’ months in the year. It is a time when many are suffering from Christmas and New Year disappointments, from money worries because of the pressure to have ‘all the trimmings’ at Christmas, from a sense of disappointment that a New Year doesn’t actually mean a ‘new me’, from feeling a failure – in comparison to others, and in comparison to the person we think we can suddenly become just because it’s a New Year. Having set too many hurdles (and at pole vaulting height) we inevitably don’t measure up.
So maybe the most important thing in the New Year, especially this New Year when we are longing for life to improve for us and for others – and we can see the vaccine shaped light at the end of the tunnel – what we might mean by wishing each other a Happy New Year is a Kind New Year. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. Maybe we should focus more on the happiness we can give to others and allow ourselves, rather than putting ourselves under too much New Year pressure.
If you are struggling this New Year, then remember you can chat to me and I can also link you up with one of our Pastoral Visitors – though they will need to ‘visit’ by phone or zoom at the moment! And there are all sorts of organisations out there who can offer support. I have listed some suggestions below.
A wise person once said to me that kindness was the most underrated virtue. Whether you’re a resolutions person or not, whether you are having a hopeful or a blue January, be kind. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Kindness is the character of God – it is because of his ‘loving-kindness’ that he is born among us, to bring us peace, forgiveness and hope, to make us anew: ‘be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you’ (Eph. 4.32).
Wishing you a Happy and Kind New Year.
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage,
Thursday 7th January 2021
Anxiety UK Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
CALM The Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Mind Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Samaritans Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
YoungMinds Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)