Let's Ring in the New Year Together

Headshot Peter LaugharnI have a confession to make.  I don’t much like New Years Eve, at least the way I grew up celebrating it. In part, this is because  I’m a morning person, not a night owl.  I’m writing this blog at 5:30 in the morning, with a steaming mug of hot coffee, and I’m alert and focused.   It would be a different story at 11:30 at night.

Here in the US, New Years Eve has always seemed a bit like an endurance test to me.  You come together, most often with people you hardly know, to wait for the hands of a clock to reach a certain place.  Then, if you’re in New York, a ball falls into Times Square.  If you’re not in New York, you watch a ball on TV falling into Times Square, accompanied by time-killing banter from television personalities.

I’m all for ringing out the old and ringing in the new, looking forward to the challenges of the new year, and even reading (or producing) lists of the top five predictions for the coming twelve months.  But I think we could improve our formula of how we get from Year A to Year B.

Africa offered me a different approach to New Years Eve.  When I worked with Save the Children in Mali, working in a very rural area, the whole staff gathered together to celebrate.  It helped that, though it was Mali’s cool season, the temperature never dropped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit all evening.  We would put on lively dance music, and we’d all hit the floor.  Between songs, we would remind one another of the high points and the challenges of the year we’d spent together.   The time flew by, and there was a high level of energy and anticipation in the room as midnight approached, even from me, the morning guy.  We did the same “10, 9, 8…” backwards count that you hear here each New Years Eve – but my heart was in it.  And, once midnight had come and gone, my colleagues would say, let’s keep going until dawn.  And I said, “Why not?”

What’s the difference?   For me, it’s that I was with people I knew, whose ups and downs I had shared over the year, and whose future was entwined with mine.   It was about community.

So this year my very first New Years resolution is to bring more community into my New Years celebrations.  To start the year with people I have a bond with, and who see a common future together, and to make the evening a celebration of that time together.  Next Sunday, on New Years Eve, my family will be with the family of my high school friend, Albert, who stayed in touch during the 20 years I was in Africa and Europe, and whose children have become great friends with my own.

I’ll also be starting the New Year with you.  You and we have come together because we share a commitment to help communities make their children’s lives better.  Amid all the other things you have had on your plate over the past year, you have shown Firelight support or read our blogs or shared something that moved you with a friend.  Thank you for the time we’ve had together so far, and thanks as well for what we’ll be able to do together in 2012.