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New year provides opportunities for new ideas, purposes, changes

Almost all of the Christmas decorations have been taken down at the farm and hauled back to the barn to be stored for another year. I used to dread having to dismantle the holiday d’cor, but now I find it almost as much fun as putting them up.
I can remember when I was a little kid sitting on the front steps after the holidays and feeling sad. The big bang of the year was over and it wouldn’t come again for a whole year. It was as though we had just experienced the grand finale.
It dawns on me now that the holidays are the grand finale and the dress rehearsal all in one. It is the uplift and insight we gain during the holiday season that make the working meetings and daily routine have value. They no longer represent merely physical acts but outward realizations of our inner dreams and hopes and purpose.
So Happy New Year. We stand at the brink of a whole new year. 2006. At new beginnings we Americans often say such things as ‘In our lives anything is possible … The sky is the limit,’ or ‘We start with a blank slate.’
It sounds wonderful and conjures up all kinds of opportunities and hopes. But in reality we often sit at such a vision of the future with an overwhelming feeling of confusion and inadequacy and even fear. Have you ever sat at a blank computer screen and felt a sense of ‘writer’s block’ when dealing with Word Perfect? There are just too many options and no guidelines.
I often wonder if this phenomenon is one of the reasons I like old stuff. Give me a set of conditions and let me figure out what is possible within their scope. The reverse thought of having all the ingredients at my disposal with only my abilities to limit the outcome of a totally new project is too much pressure for me. Maybe I want to have an out if all does not turn into the best ever. What would be my excuse if I created or did less than perfect in my venture with all opportunities and resources known to mankind available?
So give me an old building to be rebuilt for reuse or a community rich in history looking for its uniqueness. I want no bulldozer that scrapes off all the scratches and patches of the past and leaves a bare nameless landscape. I am invigorated at a remolding of the past into a visible experience for the future. I can take it one step at a time, feeling my way, finding guidelines and seeing new configurations while still feeling secure with my tether to the understandable existing world.
The blank screen before me becomes more understandable as I realize there are ‘givens’ that must be acknowledged in any situation. Those givens ‘ be they physical conditions or social and psychological ‘ can be placed around the map (or chart or picture) of my plan for the future like fence posts that define a property or guide posts that support its new configuration. We decide which it shall be.
Some of the givens in our part of the world are climate, roads or economic factors. Let’s list them and appraise them. As we scoot our givens and goals around, we see some conditions we said were permanent must be changed. We are blocked from bigger goals for the future by hanging on to something that is now in place. Our community becomes a growing, moving and always shifting puzzle that takes lots of players to see the possibilities and work the options. The common statement, ‘It’s always been done that way’ has value only in understanding what people expect and why they respond as they do. And that is important in discussion and compromises and coalition building which is the real name of the game of life.
As we look at 2006, let’s start to fill in the outline we see for the future. Where do we have givens that must find a place in tomorrow and which ones just don’t fit? How do they work together as a more vibrant community?
One person, sitting in one spot, on one day, can’t paint the picture of our world. It takes all of us together. And it doesn’t just happen. We have to consciously go about setting up meetings, events and experiences that get us together. These brainstorming sessions may be unsettling at times ‘ slower than we hoped and never totally fulfilling ‘ but always bigger, better and more exciting sustainable results are produced.
The old town fathers were wonderful. They could move fast. They could make a decision over lunch and move on. But we have outgrown that family structure that served well in the past. We are a diverse society of educated, mobile, technologically connected and affected folks. We have more variables and opportunities than the past. What a fortunate group we are to be planted here at this time when we are all needed in the mix. So no sitting back drinking coffee or soda with like-minded friends and making comments about conditions in Southern Indiana.
Get up, get out and get involved. Risk looking like a new guy trying to take over an old block, or an old guy trying to hang on to the past. Speak up, explore and reach out. You will find there are thousands, yes thousands, of folks just like you who want to extend their scope. Go for it! No one person has the answers, but together we can form huge solutions that greet our needs and dreams. 2006 can be a dynamo year.

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