Although I always like (and need) opportunities for a new beginning, a fresh start, I, like Lynne Patrick, have long ago given up on “resolutions.” It’s a setup for guilt, as she pointed out in her New Year’s Eve post. Instead, I find that looking back over the previous year is a good way to sort out changes that can be made in the new one: Mistakes made that can be avoided next time around, things tried that succeeded and can be done even better, friendships in which more time can be invested, family who should be taken a bit less for granted.
Pondering the previous year with the intent of improving my behavior in the next one yields a strange result. Yes, I realize my shortcomings, procrastination, impatience, etc. But instead of guilt I wind up with gratitude. I have good health, supportive friends, a loving family, and am doing work I love.
A situation that developed late in the year in one community of which I am a part called my attention to another area ripe for some gratitude. Our small town, struggling to revitalize itself after years of neglect, empty storefronts, and failed attempts to turn things around, decided a few years ago to form a Business Improvement District, an entity sanctioned by New Jersey law, a partnership between the business community and the municipal government and funded by an extra tax levied on commercial property owners and businesses. Much progress has been made, but there has also been much controversy. Disagreement is to be expected in such undertakings, but at the end of this year the budget process brought out the worst in everyone. Discussion degenerated to name calling; personal attacks unrelated to the issues were rampant. The vitriol was appalling, and a great deal of it played out on Facebook, even in groups that in the past were repositories of advice on pet sitters and which farm stand had the best fresh corn. I will spare you more detail; suffice it to say that it was the dark side of social media, of which I had heard but which I had not previously seen.
My Facebook usage is somewhat limited. My “friends” are people I want to keep in touch with, real friends, family, more recently a group of high school friends and acquaintances who have found each other again through the wonders of modern technology. I join groups in the local community, and follow the other businesses in town. And, of course, there are the “friends” who are mystery authors or active in the mystery community, some of whom I actually know and many of whom I know only online. It is this last group of friends that I realized presented such a stark contrast to the posts I was seeing from the angry local groups and individuals. During December, I began scrolling past anything involving the local dispute to get to the good stuff: “Best of 2015” lists with ideas for future reading, posts by authors promoting forthcoming works by other authors, comments of encouragement and support for people struggling and good wishes for those with good news to share. The effort made on behalf of our own Erin Mitchell by so many is the greatest example of how this community functions. If anything negative or destructive is floating around in this mystery community, I didn’t see it. It restored my faith in people and their desire to support and encourage others.
As to my local business community, I think that cooler heads are beginning to prevail, and that the truly vicious and destructive sorts are now being marginalized. I expect 2016 to be better now that everyone has vented. There may even be a budget passed. Comparing the two communities over the last months of 2015 leads me right to the gratitude.
Thank you, everyone for allowing me to be a tiny part of this wonderful mystery community. Happy New Year.