Happy Boxing Day!
In England, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day because of the old custom of giving tradesmen "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the 26th as thanks for good service throughout the year.
The tradition also dates back to the early Christian era when metal boxes were placed outside churches and used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. (Remember the line from the Good King Wenceslas song?)
We are in New York City today where we have just welcomed a new granddaughter into the world. We rushed here from San Diego, where we welcomed a new grandson earlier in the month. And we have been thinking what a great time Boxing Day is to reflect on our blessings and to start thinking about the New Year and perhaps contemplate some "resolutions" that can make the next year better than the past one.
Are you a "resolver" or a "non-resolver?" Some folks hate New Year's resolutions because they think they set them up for failure and cause them to think about their flaws. Others love them because they set the stage for a fresh start of an improvement-oriented new year.
The best way to think of it, we think, is as an interesting opportunity for both reflection and resolution. After all, January is named after the Roman god Janus, deity of doorways, who had two faces: one looking forward and the other backward.
So whatever you think about New Year's resolutions, that turning of the calendar to January and to a new year is a pretty good time to look both ways, out the front door toward the future, and out the back door, remembering and reflecting on what has happened and what can be learned from it.
After all, what could be worse than never learning from our past — and never changing for the better in our future?
Our friend John Tanner said, "The passage of time without the possibility of change would be hellish. Ancient Greeks imagined damnation in precisely this way. Hades was populated with tragic figures trapped in cyclical time, repeating the same acts over and over: Sisyphus rolling the same rock up the hill …"
Here are some suggestions for making your reflection and resolutions a little more enjoyable and perhaps a little bit more effective:
1. Make a list of the top 20 blessings or things you are most grateful for from 2011. Take time to go back through your calendar or date book and remember the best days, the most memorable experiences, the happiest moments. Put the best of them on your list of 20.
2. Ask yourself the question, "What have I learned about myself during this past year?" Think about any tough times you have had, about difficult challenges, about other people you have learned from. Try to come up with the one biggest personal lesson of the year.
3. As you move to New Year's resolutions, divide your list into two parts: first, the "inner" resolutions — things you resolve to do within your home, within your family, within your marriage and relationships. Second, focus on your list for the "outer" — the things you want to accomplish or the goals you hope to reach in your work, your investing, your service or church work — things that happen outside your home.
4. Decide on one new interest or hobby or "awareness" you want to have in the year ahead — something you have always wanted to do or something you have felt an interest for but have just not gotten around to yet.
5. Write down both your reflections and your resolutions. Writing them, perhaps in your private journal, will help to clarify them and make them a more permanent part of your memory and of your future.
Try thinking of the New Year as a new lease on life and as your personal chance to appreciate the past year a little more and to get a better "fix" on what you want your next year to be.
The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda Eyre's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org or see their TV segments at studio5.ksl.com (search for eyre).