RELIGION: Hurricane of hope

After looking across the headlines of products and sponsors for products over the past week, I was aware of the trend a new year brings. With a new year, we also read or hear about the promises of a product, habit or vice that claim to have the ability to make each of us, “a whole new you!” Perhaps you’ve seen them too: “New year, New you!”

With these claims also come price tags: “Just $19.95 a month,” or “$69.99 a year.” The prices and the voices tell us that we can become a whole new person if we just buy a product or commit to a change.

Indeed, change is a beautiful and wonderful thing at times. Change is one of those things up there with death and taxes: it’s inevitable. However, in the past two years most of us have experienced unwelcome change and have been adapting, pivoting and pirouetting more than we’d like. Some of us are ready to just sit down and watch the show instead of being on stage moving all the time.

Glennon Doyle, author and host of the “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast says, “It is as if January has this PR agency that all sat around a table and decided that the way we will brand January is to capitalize on how much people hate themselves.” All of which suggests that no one really truly loves themselves well and January is the month we see all the things wrong, or that we want to change about ourselves. With the changing of the year, we will also commit to changing all the things we don’t like about who we are.

After listening to a few podcasts from different people and reading a few of my favorite authors comments on 2022, I am jumping on the bandwagon of a new slogan for 2022. Glennon Doyle suggests “new year, same you!” instead of “new year, new you. My slogan for this year is: “New year, be kind.”

I want us to give ourselves a little credit (or a lot of credit) for how wonderful and beautiful we are already – each one of us! Setting aside the few things we may not love about our bodies, or our habits, let’s recognize how awesome we actually are. Maybe begin each day by thanking your body for the ways that it does do to get you around in this world, instead of focusing on the few pounds of it you’d like to get rid of. Instead of homing in on the way a certain body part could look different, focus on the day-to-day tasks your body does by memory to get you through each day and thank it. Be kind to yourselves.

Let’s give ourselves some more credit: we have survived a global pandemic that has lasted nearly two years at this point. However begrudgingly, we continue to get up each morning to greet the day, make our way in the world and rest our head, hopefully on a pillow at the end of these days. Be kind to the world around you.

A glance at some parts of social media would have you believe that Montrose is a place where people are cruel to one another – who bash others for their different beliefs or who abhor people of a different political party. However, I found that when you really look, there are just as many people if not more who are making positive changes in the world: those paying for groceries of strangers who left their wallets at home, returning lost dogs who strayed into other neighborhoods, looking after children for parents who are struggling to afford daycare, being genuinely kind and caring to people they’ve never met. There are more people who are willing to sit down and have a conversation about a difference in views, than are willing to write off entire groups of people. We are and continue to be kind to strangers.

When Jesus was sent into the world – God with skin on – he too went to the Jordan to be baptized by John. He didn’t need repentance that John was preaching, but perhaps he just needed the water to wash over him and the spirit of God to remind him who he already was. “You are my son, whom I love.” Sometimes we need a reminder that God loves us and we can keep doing hard things in a new year.

My friends, this is the year to give yourself some credit and continue this awesome behavior of tolerance and grace. You are rock stars! New year, same you! Keep it up.

We have been kind to others, when it has been hard. We have spent time raising money for charities, people in need and organizations helping those going through a hard time. We have smiled under out masks at those not wearing them, and we have smiled with our mouth at people wearing theirs. When we have disagreed with people, we have found common ground to continue being civil and kind. We can keep doing these things! New year, be kind.

January does not magically make your problems go away or all your new good habits start on autopilot and out bad habits disappear. January gives us an opportunity to be gracious with ourselves and those around us for how well we are doing given the immensely complicated few years we’ve all lived through. May this be your reminder that God love you. It is a new year, let us be kind.

The Rev. Lisa Petty is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Montrose.