The passing of a year, at least for me, causes more personal reflection than is usual. I am not one to make resolutions lightly, and to do so in earnest requires a stock take of the time that has passed. In numbers, my year has consisted of:
155 days working with school students,
50 instances of running/playing football
59 intentional hours of prayer,
40 meals with my church,
20 different people round for dinner,
49 shifts at IKEA,
and seeing my girlfriend well over 100 times (cos she’s great).
I visited Switzerland for 4 days,
Sweden for 4,
and Ireland for 13.
I’m sure there are other facts that are good pointers for the year just gone. And many were not expected 12 months ago. In July I decided to be vegetarian, which was also the month I did my first 10k run (in 50 minutes!). September I went full-time working for my church, and in February I raised £200 for Thurrock Foodbank by doing a month-long dessert fast.
I don’t share all this to boast, because in some ways it is not much to shout about. Sure I went some places and did some nice stuff, but these are only the positive stats; thankfully I don’t have a list of tv episodes watched, or hours/days wasted looking at Facebook updates.
All this makes me ask the question, what actually matters? Is it doing good things, or having a good time, or being a good person? Which of the things I chose to occupy myself with this year are of value or worth? This is a far bigger debate than I have room for here and a definitive answer eludes me for now, but here are my current thoughts.
Having temporary use of a car, I decided this afternoon to set out to the dismal environment that is Lakeside Shopping Centre on New Year’s Day. For the final stop on my journey, I went to IKEA to purchase some picture frames (and inevitably some other things I did not originally intend to buy). I wanted to buy a frame because I’ve kept in my possession for the last two years a tatteredpiece of hand-writing from 2014. That Christmas we had organised a get-together for the student helpers at our after-school cafe, with food and music and games, and part of the evening consisted of some speeches. The opportunity arose for one particular boy to speak, and after crafting a few lines before dinner, he got up and said some of the kindest things about the team and myself I have ever heard, and that I still can remember word for word to this day. At the end of the evening, I thanked him and located the paper on which he had written the speech. It was this piece of writing I have finally gotten round to framing.
I believe there is something good and weighty about showing kindness to others. Something eternal maybe. And I feel it has even more significance if done without concern for repayment of any kind. It is in those situations where, if recognition of your deeds is given, it means so much more.
The slanted, scrawled biro words on the paper are not pretty to look at, but seem to me quite amazing and beautiful in their own way. Maybe this year’s resolutions should be less about making me better/faster/stronger, and more about how I can bless and care for those around me.
Hmm. Might have to write a new list now.