Bells! Whistles! Noise Makers! Tambourines! Shotguns! Guy Lombardo!
Happy New Year! Hope you’re about to have or have already had a blast.
Now let’s hope everyone makes it through the next few days safely.
Can you believe it? Another year gone and rolled away into eternity, as an old friend of mine down in Carter’s Cove used to say. Since we persist in dividing up our time in periods of years, every Jan. 1 marks the greatest “Gone” of them all.
Some of us have lost almost more than we can bear in those past 12 months, but there’s no point in dwelling on that. Some of us will lose still more in the year to come. No point in going on about that, either. Que sera sera — what will be will be.
If you are all sufficiently depressed at this point, allow me to carry on with what I really want to say.
I was once acquainted with a man who had one of the most positive attitudes towards life that I have ever seen. Norman Vincent Peale (“The Power of Positive Thinking”) would have been Joe Blisfnick compared with him.
You don’t remember Joe? He was a character in the L’il Abner comics who was always so depressed that he went around with a permanent black cloud over his head sprinkling rain on him.
You don’t remember Lil’ Abner? I’m so sorry, not only because you don’t remember him but also because you obviously don’t remember Daisy Mae, either. She was just a drawn character on the page of a comic book, but me-oh-me-oh-my was she ever well drawn!
Anyway, William (we’ll call him Bill to protect his privacy) was in a line of people I was greeting on the first Sunday in January back several hundred years ago. I gave him the same line I was giving everyone else.
“Hope this coming year is good to you!”
The responses from the rest of the congregation didn’t vary much at all, and were pretty well what you might expect.
“I hope so too, sir.”
“Well, we can all hope.”
“Whatever happens happens — not much we can do about it.”
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are famous for that kind of fatalistic attitude. (See my last two sentences in paragraph four.)
And then along came Bill. His response was significantly different.
“I’m sure it will be, Sir, I’m sure it will be!”
His tone was confident and sure. I happened to know that two of Bill’s three children had a rare form of cancer and were not expected to live into their teens. His wife had a heart so weak surgeons were afraid to operate on her.
“You seem,” I said to him, “to have a lot of trust in God.”
“I don’t know about that,” he said after a moment, “but I do have a lot of confidence in Jessie and me. We’ll be fine, whatever happens.”
On my wall is a cross stitch from a friend which she gave me shortly after I became quadriplegic.
“We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” Over the next 12 months, many of us will have to do some adjusting of our sails, some of it major, some of it relatively minor.
Bill and I talked a lot after that. He has always reminded me of the biblical character Job, for whom so many things went wrong. Like Job, he refused to blame God for his troubles.
“I don’t believe God has anything to do with what happens to us, especially the bad things,” he said on one occasion, “but I do believe God’s hand is always in mine and that’s a comfort. As for the rest of it, we’re on our own to make the best out of life that we can. That’s what Jessie and I do.”
From what I can remember, Bill was a seasonal worker somewhere in Ontario. He certainly never graduated from high school, but he was one of the wisest and best adjusted men I ever met. I was quite young when I knew him and so didn’t appreciate him as much as I should have. Nevertheless, much of what he said found its way into my own thinking and attitude toward life.
Bill died while still a relatively young man. Interestingly, his wife survived him and two of their children by many years. Some day I hope he’ll find his way into one of the more serious books I plan to write. I think you’d all like him.
When I reread what I have written here, it isn’t much like what I originally intended. Granted, I was a young student minister when I knew Bill, and that has flavoured what I ultimately printed here. Didn’t mean to preach a sermon.
I intended to take a more or less upbeat look at what the future holds for us as a province. It looks good! Better than at any point in my lifetime.
I am really optimistic about what this province holds for my children and grandchildren. But now, I’m also aware that it really doesn’t matter a tinker’s cuss about the economic future of the province. For each and every one of us, it’s our personal futures that matter most, and how capable and prepared we are to handle what comes to us.
Forgive me harking back to my past with this quotation, which has always stuck with me. Bill would have endorsed it with all his heart.
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the years, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he said, ‘Put your hand into the hand of God, whatever you perceive God to be, and that shall be better to you than a light and better than a known way.’”
Happy New Year!
Ed Smith is an author who lives in
Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.