As 2015 draws to a close, many of us have heavy hearts. We worry about terrorism, gun violence, disease, and our economic future. We look at the world and see renewed aggression on the part of Russia, disturbing settlements on islands off the coast of China, and a civil war in Syria that has given rise to the fanatical Islamic State as well as the turmoil and anguish of millions of refugees fleeing the chaos.
Here in the U.S., we are fearful of the next mass shooting, distrustful of our police, angry over the loss of skilled jobs, and worried about what destruction our children may inherit due to climate change. Not much of a “Happy New Year” feeling, is it?
Yet I am reminded that every generation has had its great plagues and challenges. My own parents lived through the Great Depression and The Second World War, when food scarcity and rationing of everyday goods was a way of life. Loved ones came home terribly damaged – or did not come home at all.
My sisters came of age during the turbulent 60s and lived through the fear of the Cuban missile crisis, the Civil Rights movement, and our devastating involvement in the Vietnam War. Their male friends waited with dread for their draft number to come up and prayed that it wouldn’t.
In my own lifetime, I have witnessed the Cold War, the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., the resignation of a president over the Watergate scandal, more than one economic recession, hostage crises, and bloody coups and scores of those “disappeared” as a result.
My own children witnessed the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001, which ushered in a protracted war on radical fundamentalism in the Middle East. They practice school lockdowns in an age of mass shootings on U.S. soil. They are growing up with their own worries and fears too.
Yet our world has endured through all of these terrible times, and men and women everywhere have bravely carried on in the face of hardship and even disaster.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously told the American people that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to bring the country out of the Great Depression and through the horrors of World War II.
Fear paralyzes and creates anger and hate. What we need in difficult times is hope and resolve to make our world better and stronger. Here’s to a hopeful new year and a commitment not to let our fear get the better of us.