“What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” — Vern McLellan
Bahamians will long remember 2019 with extremely mixed emotions and strong sentiments, spurred by the devastation that Hurricane Dorian wreaked on the northern Bahamas.
Many lives were shattered, hundreds were lost, and thousands were displaced as a result of the ravages of this unwelcome visitor to our shores.
As we begin a new year, and also a new decade, we thought it would be appropriate to begin 2020 on a hopeful and positive note.
Therefore, in this first column of the year, we would like to consider this — what positive steps can we take to enhance the prospects that 2020 and the next decade will be full of hope and promise for positive growth and optimistic opportunities for us individually and as a country?
Take a deep breath
Much of our success this year and this decade will depend on the attitude that we adopt and our responses to the challenges that we encounter.
Whether we are stuck in traffic or waiting on long lines, we should take a deep breath and remind ourselves that, no matter how annoying a situation might be, if we refuse to allow it to upset or annoy us, we would lower our blood pressure.
This would simultaneously increase our patience for the absurd and, quite frankly, in the bigger scheme of things, the inconsequential.
Too many situations develop because we refuse to temper our annoyance or anger about circumstances that really, in the long term, do not matter.
Numerous personal altercations arise because we fail to resort to conflict resolution options: literally turning the other cheek. In the year ahead, when we are inclined to impetuously react to uncomfortable events, practice taking a deep breath.
The law of attraction
Increasingly, a large number of people live their lives pursuant to the law of attraction.
Such individuals maintain that they can realize specific positive results that affect their daily lives if only they keep a positive attitude about the desired outcome.
They really believe that the desired results can be achieved in their lives simply by speaking them or willing them to be so.
While I have not discovered any scientific or empirical data to support the efficacy of this perspective, law of attraction adherents have adopted the attitude of, “What do I have to lose by not taking a positive approach to life?”
There is nothing wrong with adopting this attitude if it provides an opportunity to enhance one’s life.
Accentuate the positive
Then there are those who persistently look on the brighter side of situations they encounter.
No matter how disappointing, distressing or debilitating a situation might be, some are eternally prepared to accentuate the positive.
These are the souls who prefer to see the proverbial glass as “half full, not half empty”. They will always find the silver lining behind every dark cloud.
If we were honest, we actually prefer to be with such persons as opposed to the Chicken Littles of the world – those who, like Chicken Little, prefer to scurry about announcing that “the sky is falling” when, unbeknownst to her, it is only an acorn that has fallen on her head.
We are not normally attracted to persons who persistently complain about their lot in life. Therefore, in the decade ahead, we should, wherever possible, proactively accentuate the positive.
The values of our youth
One of the most persistent complaints about our existence is a pining for the good old days. Increasingly, people deeply desire to recapture a time when life was much simpler, less congested and complex, and surely less stressful.
We frequently reminisce about a happier time in the days of our youthful existence where, as the song “Try to Remember” reminds us, “life was calm and oh, so mellow”. Yet it seems that the more modern and sophisticated our lives have become, so have their complexities and constant challenges.
If we really want to embrace those happier times of our youthful lives, we should carve out a few hours each week to visit some of the persons who contributed to shaping us into who we are now and what we have become.
We should take the time to reach out to our grade school or high school teacher who never gave up on us even when we doubted our ability to get it.
We should visit a priest who provided spiritual or moral guidance at difficult times in our lives when we needed a listening ear or a devoted nurse who assisted through an illness, who may have long since retired and who is missing many of her friends who have left this world.
Civility and compassion
Two concepts that have long deserted our social intercourse are “civility” and “compassion”.
Civility is defined as courteous behavior, politeness and a courteous act or utterance.
Many of us can relate to this.
It encompasses important expressions like “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am”, “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” — words that were drummed into our heads at home, at school and at church.
It was the way we were guided to interact with those of our own age. It was also what we were told was sadly missing when some of those interactions ended badly in some form of altercation or another.
To demonstrate how civility can transform the world, try this for the next few weeks. Each time someone, be it a stranger, a family member or a co-worker, demonstrates a lack of civility to you, answer them with courteous behavior and polite words.
Watch how you can instantly transform the mood. Perhaps they won’t show it to you, but demonstrating civility to others will not only change the moment; it just may show them how much more powerful civility is when compared to rudeness.
Compassion, on the other hand, entails a “deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it”.
Many of us have childhood memories of adults within the community who assisted others, whether it was by feeding those who were hungry or mentoring children who needed care or simply being there for those who needed an encouraging word.
There was a time when Bahamians prided themselves on taking care of one another and in being their brother’s keeper.
In a small community, this was the way we remained strong as a people by being concerned about the wellbeing of all.
Many neighbors, having been through similar events and challenges, knew the pain firsthand and were quick to alleviate the pain of others.
Instead of simply paying lip service to the suffering of others, they took action to relieve it. And it was often in small ways: a kind word here, a meal there, a piece of advice there.
It was always helpful and, more often than we will probably ever know, a person’s life was changed by that compassion.
Today, with our doors closed, we fail to hear the cries for help that reverberate through our communities.
Many of us have closed our hearts to the feeling of compassion because to feel it makes demands of our better nature, demands we have become reluctant to fulfil.
Civility and compassion are too often absent, not only from our vocabulary but from our daily lives.
Their absence has a profound impact on what is happening to us as a people and as a society.
By making a conscious effort to practice these two concepts, we can change not only our own lives for the better, but the lives of those around us.
Then, like a ripple in a lake, the effects of civility and compassion can course throughout our nation and transform it forever.
Our lives are what we make them.
We often make our beds, sometimes oblivious that we must ultimately sleep in them.
Many of our decisions and life choices do not always end where we thought they would at the beginning of the journey.
In the year and decade ahead, when we are confronted with challenges that seem to be incalculably inescapable and irresolute, when we are motivated to lash out at others for whatever justifiable reason, whenever we are inclined to act with incivility and without compassion, we should consider these things.
The difficulties and challenges that we are currently facing shall pass.
There are always friends and family members on whom we can call.
God will never give you a burden greater than you can bear. And, in the final analysis, we have far more that binds us than what separates us, both as individuals and as citizens of a community and a nation.
My hope for this decade is that we will all find a personal, enduring peace and that we will constantly spread goodwill to all with whom we come into contact in our daily lives.
This will greatly enhance our prospects for personally contributing to a decade of hope and promise for our families, our communities and our nation.
Happy New Year!
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.