By James Mack Adams

By the time this column goes to press, the year 2019 will be well underway.  he ball will have already dropped in Times Square. The celebrations will be over. “Auld Lang Syne” will have been played and sung. Hopefully, any discomforts resulting from overindulgence in food and drink will have subsided. And, I would be willing to bet, at least a few of the New Year resolutions have already been either fractured, broken or discarded. 

It is a new year. It is a new beginning. It is time to reboot, rewind, remake, recharge, repent, retread, recommit, reestablish, retool, reawaken, reset, restart, refocus. We have been given another chance. With any luck, we might get it right this time.

In his recent First Sunday of Advent Homily, my Parish priest, Father Tom Charters, spoke about transition. Transition means change. It is an ending and a new beginning. We all deal with many transitions in our lives … changing jobs, losing family members and friends, relocating to a new town, etc. 

Each new year brings new challenges as well as recurring old ones that just won’t go away. So be it. How many years can we remember when we had no crosses to bear, no demons to overcome, no dragons to slay? Would it not be nice to have an entire year with no worries, no losses, no heartaches, no disappointments. I would bet that’s not going to happen.          

One of the most memorable opening paragraphs in English literature comes from the classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair………”

That seems a fair description of a typical year in one’s life, does it not? It does mine.

Challenges come with the territory. We have to play the cards we are dealt. As the lyrics of the country song, “The Gambler,” advise….. “You have to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.” 

We all hope for a winning hand, but we must accept the fact we will sometimes have to fold, and hope we get better cards in the next deal.

Just like winning, failing is a part of living. Ask the writer who receives enough rejection letters to paper his or her walls before publishing that best seller. Show me someone who never fails, and I will show you someone who never does anything. 

Our young people need to be taught their lives will be a series of wins and losses. Losing is neither a disgrace nor a blot on one’s self-esteem. They need to learn to accept success with grace and face failure with courage and determination to do better. One of Gen. George S. Patton’s many famous quotes is: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” 

I am reminded of an instance that happened several years ago when I was publishing a local monthly newspaper. I was invited to cover an event in which children of various ages competed in sport activities. 

When time came to present the awards, I noticed that every contestant received a trophy, regardless of their performance in the competition. When I questioned the practice of awarding “participation trophies,” I was told the organizers didn’t want any child to feel bad. I didn’t respond, even though I admit to questioning the practice at the time. Were they doing the kids a favor? Perhaps I am writing this from the perspective of a member of an older generation. I know some will have different opinions.

I also have some thoughts on the practice of providing “Safe Spaces” on college campuses. But I will save those for later.

Have a very happy, healthy, prosperous and successful 2019. Reach for the stars. You might just grab one.

In the words of the poet: “Ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for.” – Robert Browning