Fr Shay Cullen writes about a meeting among a small group of students over Christmas where the question of New Year’s resolutions inevitably arose.
The students agreed to be totally honest and share their New Year’s resolutions with each other and share how they would better their lives in 2019.
Roberto began and said, “I resolve to change my eating habits, I know I am overweight, I eat too much junk foods, fast foods, instant food, but they slow me down and I feel hungry all the time. One day, I will get obese and then have diabetes, so I resolve to stop it and eat healthy foods, fish, vegetables, fruit and low on rice. And I promise to walk more.”
Everyone on the group nodded in agreement and congratulated Robert and promised to help him as if they too needed to change their life style.
Ella was next. “I resolve to fight my addiction to social media, junk news, Facebook and non-stop chatting. It’s taking over my life, it distracts me from my studies and I am getting low grades. When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is not to thank the creator for the gift of life and another day to live and learn but I reach for my smart phone. I have to see what message came in, and they are all so unimportant, trivial, and nonsensical. Then I get so irritated and angry when I have ‘low batt.’ I am wasting my life for nothing to show for it, time that will never come back, hours wasted every day and my studies are affected too. I have to get off it, but I don’t know how.”
Robert told her, “I promise I will never text or message you again, so there.” They all laughed and sympathised with Ella, the others shared her problem to some degree.
Some other members of the group felt guilty of the same addiction and looked at floor in frustration. Others turned off their smart phones.
Then it was the turn of Benzie. He confessed that he had to change his spending habits. Besides being a non-stop messenger user himself, he said he had a compulsion to buy things.
“For the New Year, I swear I will never go to the mall, every time I go there I have to spend and buy something no matter how trivial it is. Sometimes, it is just a small gadget, an accessory, a new t-shirt and I have so many already. I am always begging my parents for more money and have some debt because I am a captive consumer. So, no more ‘malling’ and spending for me,” he said.
Miriam was slow to share. She sat in the group silent, nervous and afraid. Ella encouraged her. “Whatever it is you have to give up it can’t be all that bad. Tell us what your resolution is going to be.” The group laughed.
“Well,” she said slowly but with conviction, “I have been reading lot about feeling inadequate and insecure. I think it is because of what I see on television and how they tell us that we should all look like a celebrity. I feel I am not myself and am trying to be another imaginary person. I was advised to forget myself by being involved with other people and helping them. So, my New Year’s resolution is to join the youth social action group and get involved with helping poor people. I am too much into taking selfies and sharing them over my smart phone and all day I am looking at myself in a mirror and checking my hair and makeup.”
“I really am too selfish and I am going to find my real self and stop trying to change how I look. I am also resolving this New Year to stop using skin whitening cream. I know it can damage me and I am not happy with my life and I have to change. I think forgetting how I look and stop worrying about how others see me is what I need to do. I am going to forget me and get involved in other people’s lives. That’s my New Year resolution. It will be a challenge, but I have to do it,” she told the group.
They all applauded. “Yes, we can all change if we work up the will power, we can do it.”
“Well, why don’t we all join the action group and do a project together, then we help each other be faithful to our resolutions and change our life style, together we might all be faithful to our resolutions,” said Ella.
Those confessions and resolutions could inspire many others to change their lifestyle too. As we go into the New Year 2019, we ought to think and act on how we could have a more meaningful life. Can we find greater personal freedom and have the self- discipline to control our own lives and our environment? Can people shake off the power of consumerism that stimulates our greed? The masters of manipulation want us to be selfish and to spend and to accumulate things.
The economy and those who control it does not to see us as people but consumers, not citizens but cogs in a great wheel that churns out profits and accumulates vast amounts of money for them. Several million tons of perfectly good, surplus food is thrown away daily in the developed countries while the poor starve.
Consider this: “Runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population,” Oxfam says in a report. Our resolution for 2019 could be to change that by working for social justice and equality.