Rebecca Rosen Lum
Two-thousand and eight struck at our lives like a battering ram, spurring sobered, fingers-crossed boomers to commit to resolutions both profound and sweeping.
It was, after all, a year that tried the human spirit: retirement nest eggs hemorrhaged money, gay marriage suffered defeat in California, once-secure jobs evaporated, and violence wracked communities - globally and locally.
Yet a cursory survey of boomer resolutions in the nascent new year revealed no shortage of audacity or hope. The success of a certain community-organizer-turned-president-elect may have helped set the tone.
Even the personal-inventory resolutions - lose weight, quit smoking - reflect a somber consideration of the effects of lifestyle choices on others.
"Because of all the life-changing events of 2008, my intentions for 2009 are exponentially bigger and more selfless than in years past," said Carol Knapp Thomas, whose Tennessee Valley Unitarian church near Knoxville, Tenn. was rocked by a violent attack in July when an area resident gunning for "liberals" opened fire in the sanctuary, killing two. "The usual ones are still there - generally to dial back the self-indulgent holiday behavior and recommit to mindful right living - but so is a heightened, more focused intent to be a force for good in the world."
For Ventura, Calif. graphic artist Steve Greenberg, an unexpected layoff from the newspaper where he'd been happily employed allowed him to realize two goals for the coming year: To get to the gym more often, and "to spend quality time with my aging parents."
Ada Stollsteimer, who provides medical support service, also vows to get into shape, but her goals have little to do with measuring up to pop media icons.
"When my doc told me in I had diabetes, I told her I would do whatever I have to in order to be as healthy as I possibly can, because I feel a need to be here for my grandson for a long time to come," the Ft. Collins, Colo. businesswoman said. "So I feel like for the first time, it is about more than how I look or embarrassment about being heavy; it is about living as long as possible and being well for Jayden. And it turns out, it's pretty good for me, too."
Caring and Giving
An Atlanta, Ga. artist not only contemplated what she might do in the coming year but how.
"Some people have the wonderful gift of being able to work with and help large numbers of people, maybe through social agencies or working in politics, effecting public policies and changes," said Nina West. "I think I do best on a smaller, more personal scale."
West plans to start a support group for adult caregivers and help shepherd her church's youth group, to which her own children once belonged.
A former ballet dancer whose goals always had to do with skill and roles is now reaching beyond herself. Portland, Ore.'s Penelope Lam plans to sponsor an impoverished child in the Philippines and step up her efforts to halt global warming.
Last year, San Franciscan Vera Avetisoff vowed to bulk up on saving for retirement. This year, she resolves to eliminate personal debt.
For many of Benicia, Calif. college instructor Barbara Hernandez' friends, saving money and getting out of debt - in some instances, for the first time since she has known them - have replaced vacations and purchases.
Individuals and congregations alike have made plans to reduce their carbon footprint, offer support services to the newly jobless, and stimulate discussion about public policy. In California, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage has compelled many across the country to embrace a teaching role about gay rights and realities in the coming year for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transexual citizens.
"LGBT people often talk about teaching moments," said St. Paul, Minn. social worker Laura Ross. Although always being "on" can be exhausting, "It seems an especially appropriate moment to be out."
"Do I hold my partner's hand when we are feeling affectionate, walking along in the mall? Do I respond with a teaching moment every time I hear ignorant or hateful remarks?," she mused. "To that last one, yes, as often as possible, when I am feeling the energy and passion to speak well enough."