She was born into an emerging America in 1890. Through the ninety-five years of life that stood in front of her she would watch an Industrial Revolution unfold, Henry Ford roll out the Model T, and Edison light the world. She would read the headlines of dough boys marching off to fight a Kaiser in what was originally called the ‘Great War’. Some twenty-four years later she would watch history repeat itself as millions of GI’s marched off in similar fashion to fight a dictator in something called World War II. In-between it all, she would face the economic depravity and emotional ravages of a devastating depression within which her husband would abandon the family and summarily vanish. She was left to support three children on a meager income of scant dollars earned in the hot kitchen of a small diner.
She never drove a car. She lived out most of her life on pocket change, making what seemed impossible possible. The furniture in her meager home was old, lending it the enchanting aroma of another era long vanished. It all was tenderly cared for in a manner that lent her home an indescribable, but wonderfully simple charm. The few appointments in her small home were tidy, clean, and above all cherished. She saw herself as marvelously blessed in the midst of manifold need, for Granny understood that ‘need’ was more an issue of attitude than a matter of circumstance. And I was privileged to be touched by this solitary life until her passing in 1985.
For over ten years, every month Granny would tease ten dollars out of her meager collection of dimes and dollars. And she would send it off to a young Hispanic girl whose father had abandoned her, and whose mother had placed her in an orphanage and summarily walked away. All Granny had was a single photo of a tattered little girl standing in front of a weathered hut. It sat in a slight frame on her tiny buffet. At the feet of the photo there laid a handful of yellowed letters that Granny had received from this little girl over that most precious decade.
Some years after Granny had passed, another letter came. In it were several photos bearing the striking image of a young Hispanic woman in professional attire standing in a small but simple office setting. On the back of one photo in stuttering script it said, “Thank you for my new life.” My grandmother didn’t live long enough to see the results of her sacrifices. However, while real sacrifice is committed to the result, it relishes the effort. Granny relished the effort and birthed something ‘new’ into the life of a young woman.
We Are the ‘New’
Each of us possess ample resources to be the ‘new’ in the life of another. It is not the execution of some strategy as we might think, or the happenstance of life that births something ‘new’. It is not about some level of tenacious persistence, or the right choices made at the right time. These things and many more can bring something ‘new’ to our lives and the lives of those around us.
But it is the raw power of that single human being stepping up and stepping into the life of another that can bring something ‘new’ in ways that nothing else ever can or ever will. It is the energy of our humanity shared. It is the hope that is released in the touch of another. It is the voice of another that calls out when all other voices have long fallen silent.
It is an investment that may cost us much, yet it is an expenditure that will cost us much more if we refuse it. It is pressing against the giant of greed and intentionally raising the eyes of our hearts past our own circumstances to focus on the circumstances of another. It is a passion that unleashes everything away from us so that it can be drawn into everyone around us. And it is this that sets the grand stage upon which to birth something ‘new’ in another that would never have been ‘new’ were it not for such a sacrifice.
Be the ‘New’
Might I suggest that this New Year, the ‘new’ in our lives is making the choice to become the ‘new’ in the life of another. In whatever manner we choose to do that, we all can change a life and in doing so change a world. Therefore, let us not contemplate ‘New Year’s’ resolutions. Rather, let us formulate ‘New Life’ commitments. And let us begin to do that by becoming the ‘new’ in the life of another.