Better Community, Better Self: Four New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 & Beyond

Another year and has come and gone, and many of us are making (or have made) new year’s resolutions: join a gym, learn a foreign language, try a new hobby. Some strive toward fitness goals, while others focus on education or spiritual goals.

But let’s make this year different.

This year, let’s resolve not just for a better self, but for better families, better communities, a better world. Some of us have already begun to tackle our new year’s resolutions, but it’s never too late to add a few to the list. Take a look at these four resolutions for a better East Tennessee in 2017.

Love deliberately and often.

To love is to have a deep affection for someone or something. We love food, family, friends, our pets, and many other things in our lives. BUT do we love deliberately? To be deliberate is to do something with purpose or intent. I can love my best friend so deeply that I would protect her no matter what, but she doesn’t know that unless I tell her. So, I deliberately text, call, and hang out with her. I make a point to call her and check in on her. I send her birthday gifts and coax her to eat lunch with me when life seems to get in the way. Because if I am not deliberate about our friendship, it may die.

The challenge: go deeper than loving family and friends. Go deeper than loving the people it’s easy to love. In 2017, let’s think of ways that we can love others more deliberately – not just the people we know. Treat a coworker to lunch, make care packages for the homeless and hand them out, go out of your way to be kind to that Starbucks barista. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Which brings us to resolution number two:

Give generously.

Giving is closely related to love, but it can be a difficult topic to discuss. When we give, we are taking part of our selves, our time, or our money and handing it over to someone else without asking for anything in return. I’ll admit right now that giving is hard for me. It is difficult to take something very precious to me (my downfall is time) and tell someone that they can have it.

The challenge: give generouslyGive without complaint. Give with joy. A practical way to live out this resolution is to write down your giving. Write down what you are thankful for, what you’re passionate about, how you can give joyfully to better the world. Research organizations doing good work in your community – work you are passionate about – and support those programs. Try not to give your leftover expired cans to a food drive or your ragged clothes to a thrift store. Look deep into your pockets and give gladly to others – time or money.

Be judgment free.

Lets face it, we are judgmental people. We judge even when we don’t mean to. This year, strive toward openness. It may not be possible to stop our brains from snap judgments, but we can be aware of when we do fade into that mindset.

The challenge: listen openly. When we listen openly and patiently, we hear more. When we hear more, we understand more deeply. When we understand more deeply, we can celebrate differences instead of allowing them to shut us down. By openly listening, we can change a society that is flooded with judgments into a community that loves others deeply and deliberately. (Look at that – this resolution actually helps us achieve resolution #1! That’s a two-for-one deal impossible to pass up.)

Jump into action.

It is now 2017, and with the media today, we are aware of the injustices of our nation more than ever. At times when we find out about issues such as human trafficking, child abuse, and poverty it can be overwhelming.

But let’s not be discouraged.

Let’s allow our sadness and heartbreak to spring us into action. Let’s not idly sit and hope that someone will come along and be the change. WE can be the change! Jump into action by educating yourself about the problem. Conduct research, read books, attend trainings, or seek after a mentor that specializes in the issue you are passionate about. Once you have done one of those things, you can use what you know to create change in your community. Talk with friends and family about what you learned, volunteer for a local agency that combats the said issue, fundraise for an agency or cause, or start a blog to help raise awareness.

Allow your resolutions for self to fuel your resolutions for community. Have you set new fitness goals? Sign up for a 5K that benefits your favorite cause. Do you aim to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby? Think outside the box about how you can use it to raise awareness and get involved.

Be creative, be deliberate, be open: the sky is the limit, so dream BIG and BE THE CHANGE.

It starts with all of us.