I believe the new year will be what we make it. Yes, there are tough realities facing the Atlanta region; political polarization, traffic gridlock and a growing gap between rich and poor are among the concerns that come to mind. All of them together are enough to make you want to get under the bed and stay there. But that can’t happen. Not here. Retreat and surrender are not in Atlanta’s DNA. Of course, the future looks daunting this January – what else is new?
I want to suggest three approaches that might serve us well in the year ahead. They are applicable to Atlanta, as well as to our personal lives:
Committed openness. Be confident that the future can be better than the present. Honor traditions, while also being receptive to new ideas, new friendships, new coalitions for problem solving. This isn’t your old Atlanta. Behold the new Atlanta. Get out of your comfort zone. Have an adventure.
Hopeful realism. Don’t settle for naive optimism, which does not do anyone a bit of good. Embrace a hopeful attitude. Be realistic about what is possible, and then get fired up about it. I love a saying attributed to St. Augustine: “Hope has two daughters- anger and courage. Anger at what is but ought not to be and courage to make what ought to become be.”
Pragmatic civility. Brotherly and sisterly love are better, but when love and easy consensus are not readily available, avoid being hateful. Watch out for sharp-edged self-righteousness when it shows up as an unwelcome guest in your heart. It cuts both inside and out. Find a way to make common cause with those who are different from you in seeking to promote what is good, especially for the most vulnerable in our midst.
God has granted Atlanta and each of us a fresh chapter in which all things are still possible. May we receive the gift with gratitude and give 2013 the very best we’ve got.