It seems somehow too light-hearted and trite to launch into wishes for a happy new year without momentarily reflecting on the sad and tragic events of 2015.
I don’t know if we can learn anything as observers of tragedy, except to hold those we love even more closely, to be thankful for what we have, and perhaps to be more tolerant, accepting and kind toward those we don’t know or those we don’t understand. (Please read this in the way you know I am intending it to be understood.)
In my travels around the States in October, November and December, I was struck by two distinct and wildly contradictory types of comportment. The first, and by far the most prevalent, was extraordinary kindness, enthusiasm and openness. It made me think: Ah, yes, this is what I love so much about my country.
Then there was the second, those with a blatant disregard of others’ sentiments, beliefs and sensibilities. This minuscule, but vocal, minority was spewing what I can only think of as the worst kind of prejudice and bile, with a total disregard about what others felt or thought and never engaging those who might not agree with them in an exchange of ideas. They knew they were correct in their opinions even though, factually they were anything but correct.
A few days before returning home, I had coffee with Vincent Floreani, the French consul général for the Midwest in the consulate offices in downtown Chicago. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed our 90-plus minutes of conversation. As you can imagine, our exchange began rather formally, but as we moved along it became evident that we could be quite frank in our opinions.
He told me he loved the enthusiasm of Americans, the way we think positively, the way we are optimistic, the way we tend to see possibilities where a French person might see obstacles.
As you can see, I’m into one of my free association ramblings. I’ll now pull back from my stream of consciousness and get back on message: 2016.
Let’s hope and pray it will be a good year, filled with hope, enthusiasm and kindness. Perhaps each of us in small ways can contribute to the effort. Giving kindness and understanding is the gift that keeps on giving, on both sides of the gesture.
Now, how could I let a year slip by without repeating once again: Thank you for your visits, thank you for following me, thank you for your encouragement, your affection, your kindness, your generosity and also your criticism when you don’t agree with me. If repetition is for emphasis, than I shall never cease to repeat how much I appreciate you.
I hope your wishes will be fulfilled in 2016 and that you are, and always will be, surrounded by those you love. May your dreams come true and your year be filled with happiness, harmony, humor, and good health.