Ashtray

Columnist John Moore still has the ashtray, but not the habit. He tired of it (pun intended).

res•o•lu•tion

n. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.

n. A firm decision to do something.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

In my previous column, I mentioned my resolution to help others during the New Year. Some readers felt that resolutions were a waste of time, while others felt resolutions are admirable, but not sustainable.

As a wise person once told me, “If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The first New Year’s resolution I can remember making was trying to clean up my language.

I was in junior high and had picked up some of the vernacular of the 9th grade boys.

That was the same year that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” (one of my favorite songs) was a hit on the radio, which was about the same time that a few radio stations started allowing the occasional curse word in certain songs.

As a 7th grader, I was getting mixed messages. I knew bad language wasn’t condoned in my house or family, yet it seemed to be pervasive. Everyone else was doing it, so why not me?

Kinda hard to give up something when it’s pretty much all around you. To a kid, common use is an endorsement.

Such was also the case with cigarettes. I smoked my first cigarette when I was about 11 or 12. My friend James would ride over on his bike and we’d go in the woods behind my house and smoke. Or, at least we acted like we were smoking.

James sold Grit Magazine door-to-door, so he always had a pocket full of quarters. The stores would sell smokes to anyone back then, as long as they had the money.

Two of James’ quarters bought a pack of Viceroys.

Later, I became a regular smoker. Why? Peer pressure, plain and simple. I wanted to look cool. Most adults smoked, other kids smoked. All the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd smoked (more than just cigarettes, it turned out), so why not me?

Quitting smoking later became an almost annual New Year’s resolution. I was no longer smoking because of peer pressure. I smoked because I was hooked.

After I married and had kids, my resolutions would often relate to being a better husband and father and to walk better in my Faith.

Do you see the pattern here?

Resolutions all seem to come from a desire to stop doing something, or several somethings that we know are bad for us, are wrong, or both.

2020 added some new things to the list, which, until now, never before occurred to me, but deserve to be resolutions. The difference is, they aren’t things we should stop, they’re things we should start.

They include:

1. Being more grateful. Gratefulness costs nothing but pays dividends. My dad used to say that, “No matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always someone else who has it way worse than you do.”

Dad was right. What we’ve gone through over the last year has made that statement much clearer and more succinct than ever before.

2. Find new ways to help others. The Bible tells us to put others before ourselves. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s how I read it. Whether Scripture is discussing widows, orphans, the poor, or anyone else we can assist, finding new ways to help someone else and making that a habit is a win.

3. Get more involved in your community. It’s easy to read the paper and gripe about officials who do things that seem less-than-smart. Being a good community servant used to be an expectation. For many politicians, being good at community service is no longer an expectation, it’s now an affectation. We all should be involved in our communities. To what level is a choice.

Some people make one New Year’s resolution, others make several, while many make none at all.

Making a resolution is easy. Sticking to a resolution is hard. Most resolutions don’t stick.

I gave up cigarettes years ago. I’m still working on my language. But the thing about resolutions is that had I never made them, I wouldn’t have had a goal for myself for the coming year.

That’s what a resolution is — a goal. Something you set to improve yourself, and consequently also improve the experiences others have when they are around you.

I’m not telling you to quit your bad habits, but if you can and want to, by all means do. Often, losing bad habits makes life more pleasant for those you know.

But if we focus more on goals that improve other people’s lives, we’ll be pleasantly surprised at how our success rate of sticking to those goals goes way up.

We just have to be resolute.

To send John a message, buy his books, “Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now” Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, or listen to his Weekly 5-Minute Podcast; visit his website at TheCountryWriter.com.

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