For months now, your social media feeds have no doubt been full of people who hated 2016. And much of their disgust with the previous year seems justified. Dozens of beloved celebrities, actors, and musicians passed away. Political turmoil runs rampant, not only in America, but in much of the industrialized world. There were terrorist attacks, natural disasters, mass shootings, wars, and Batman/Superman movie that not a lot of people liked.
But 2016 isn't to blame for any of that.
I've seen, "Screw you, 2016!" and "I'm staying up till midnight on New Years Eve just so I can watch 2016 die" appear so many times on my Facebook feed over the last week that I've stopped counting the occurrences. These posts are blaming an abstract concept, a unit of time that has no significance other than what we apply to it, for the problems of the last year. And if we as a people fail to place responsibility where it is due, we are doomed to find ourselves in the same place next year, typing "Screw you, 2017! Maybe 2018 will be better!" on our phones and laptops.
Instead of blaming 2016 for the deaths of our favorite actors and musicians, we should instead look at the underlying problems that contributed to their deaths. Very few people have started a social media conversation about the danger and stigma of substance abuse and addiction. Many of these celebrities were in their prime when everyone in the music and movie industries were talking about drugs and alcohol, but no one was talking about the consequences. Instead of blaming 2016 for the deaths of these beloved figures, let's instead start a national conversation about treating substance abuse. Let's reach out to those we care about who are struggling with drugs and alcohol. Let's find a way to help these people instead of blaming 2016. Heck, let's at least start a conversation about it.
Of course, there were those who passed from old age, or, more tragically, cancer or other diseases. While these are equally tragic, they are no more the fault of 2016 than the others.
This blog has never been, and will never be, a sounding board for politics, so this paragraph will be short. Many people are upset about the incoming administration in American politics. But sharing inflammatory articles, blowing up the Twitterspehere with four-letter words, and ranting in the comments section of someone else's post aren't going to change anything. And like the many notable celebrity deaths, 2016 is not to blame.
Instead of blaming 2016 for the massacring of innocents in a nightclub, we could have started a national conversation about the use of deadly weapons. Someone could have reached out to the shooter, made him understand that he was allowed to find happiness and fulfillment in life, instead of seeking absolution at the butt of a rifle. Someone could have shown him a better way. Or at least stopped him from buying an assault weapon.
And yes, while it is true that there is very little we as citizens can do in the way of international politics, the truth is that some people, somewhere, can influence these actions. Maybe that's as large as choosing not to send a regiment of troops into a city. Maybe it's as small as bringing food to refugees.
The common thread that connects all these upsetting headlines is this: 2016 isn't responsible for any of them.
We did it all. We, as people of the world, are responsible for the whole mess. If we're looking to blame something, let's place the blame where it belongs. On us. Instead of saying that 2016 was the worst year ever, let's be honest and say that 2016 was our worst year ever.
Yeah, it seems like there's a lot that needs to be done, especially in the wake of how awful most people perceive 2016 to have been. It doesn't feel like there's anything we can do about the atrocities in Aleppo, or the terrorist attacks in the Belgium airport, or the shooting at The Pulse nightclub. And that's true. For the average citizen, some things are out of our reach.
But each of us has a tiny corner of the world we can influence, and if all we can do is make that part a little bit better, then we should do it. If we want things to change, WE HAVE TO CHANGE THEM. Do volunteer work with your local anti-homelessness organization. Collect donations of food for your local food bank. Arrange a bake sale to raise money for a cause you believe in. Call someone you know who's elderly or shut-in. Pray for someone you normally wouldn't. Confront someone in love whom you suspect struggles with substances.
It's going to get tiring. Doing good always is. That's why you don't see people camping out in New York for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement anymore: it was a protest not based on making things better, but simply sitting around and waiting for others to change things.
Every day actions will feel small, but over time they'll add up.
Everything I write is from a Christian perspective. If you're not interested in hearing why I believe the things I wrote about, you can simply stop reading here and have a feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy post about everyone banding together to do the right thing. If you'd like to get a little deeper, keep reading.
Scripture says, "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap the harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, let us do good to all, as we have opportunity, especially to those who belong to the family of believers with us." (Gal. 6:9-10). These are good words, and one of my favorite scriptures. But dang, is it hard to put into practice!
As the church, Christ calls us to do many things. I believe that the gospels boil down to this message: imitate Jesus, treat others as he treated them, and put all things of The Kingdom before the things of this world. And when you look at 2016, it doesn't seem like a lot of people were imitating Jesus. Not the people who made the news, anyway. But maybe that's the real testament of following Jesus: those who are doing it correctly aren't going to show up in the limelight (Mark 6:1).
With that in mind, any New Year's Resolution we make should be the kind that Jesus would make.
He sought out those who were unloved and unwanted and provided for their basic needs.
He never stopped thinking about the Kingdom of Heaven, and what He could do to describe its majesty to people.
He desired for all people to come to a relationship with God the Father, and to understand God's love through that personal relationship.
When He saw sin in believers or religious people, He called them out on it.
He called no one to simply exist where they were, but called everyone to continually grow closer to God in word and action.
Yes, 2016 seemed horrible on the surface. But we've got to remember that 2016 was simply a number. It was another spin of the globe, full of broken and confused people just like us. But as the body of believers, it's got to be up to us to crack our knuckles and get to work. Yeah, most of us can only affect one tiny corner of the world, but it's a corner that may never understand Jesus without us. Each and every one of us had to do their part. And from the look of things, we've got our work cut out for us.
Finish the cartoon however you please.
Image uncredited; I didn't draw it, but found in within the miasma of the internet. If it's your image, please contact me and I will credit your work!