As the iconic ball drops in Times Square, I will be one of millions watching the proceedings from the comfort of my own home. (Having once braved the crowds and the cold on Thanksgiving morning for the Macy's parade, that was more than enough for me!) As Dick Clark's protégé, Ryan Seacrest, counts down the final seconds of 2014, I will watch the ball drop, see the crowds cheer and hug and raise their glasses, and then join in the wistful song about forgotten acquaintances and old times' sake.
I recall another New Year's Eve, little less than a quarter of a century ago, as I again was one of millions in America looking on with amazement as the Soviet Union, our long-time nemesis, broke apart before our eyes. It had been barely two years since the Berlin Wall -- that tangible symbol of Cold War division -- had been torn down. Then in the waning days of 1991, Ukraine and several smaller countries declared their independence, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president, and on the final day of the year the red flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was lowered for good. The Soviet Union was no more. That New Year, as revelers gathered in Times Square, the future appeared bright.
But in the years since, old enemies have given way to new ones. Cold War fears have largely been replaced by different kind of terrors, even as places like Ukraine and Russia push their way back into the headlines. Closer to home we see revealed old, malignant prejudices that we tried to convince ourselves were simply a thing of the past. Peace remains an elusive goal. And for my own part, well-intentioned resolutions uttered at midnight in years past often have had a way of dying on the vine, choked by old resentments and persistent fears.
It is a complex, bittersweet moment as the ball comes down and the cheers go up, Gratitude mixes with regret, anticipation with a touch of worry. Yet I dare to hope. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta once remarked, "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." And how shall we begin? Perhaps not so much with grand resolutions once a year but with wise decisions every day, not so much with good intentions, but rather with intentional acts. South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu succinctly put it: "Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." World peace? Yes, but one choice, one act at a time.
Happy New Year? How about Happy New Day, every day. I thank God that the regrets of the past and the worries for the future can indeed fade before intentional choices -- my choices -- for good in the Now.
As the ball drops, I raise a glass and allow myself to smile. More than a new year. It is a new day... let us begin again.