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In the monthly pastor's column, Pastor Nancy Slabaugh Hart discusses optimism.

By Pastor Nancy Slabaugh Hart

United Methodist Church

Recently, as I was pondering the beginning of the new year, I recalled a couple of commercials from a number of years ago. It struck me, that although I couldn't tell you what the commercial was trying to sell me, the content of the commercial stuck with me.

In the first commercial a family tears through the house looking for something—under the cushions, in drawers, behind the couch. Finally, success! The father holds it up — a paper with New Year's resolutions from the previous year: 1. Eat healthy; 2. Get exercise; 3. Prioritize; 4. Write a novel.

After reading the list aloud, the mother suggests, "Maybe we could put number three higher on the list this year." I can identify!

The second commercial was even more creative. We see a family getting ready for the day, being organized by a large, hunky Scandinavian named, "Sven." You see Sven waking up the family, detailing the day's schedule from the dry erase board while the family is eating breakfast, and then riding through the house on a scooter declaring, "Last call!"

And my favorite — Sven handing each member of the family a beautiful hand-knitted sweater as they head out the door, declaring, "It's going to be a cold one!"

As the family happily departs for the day, a voiceover declares, "If you don't have a Sven…" and then recommends whatever labor-saving products that are guaranteed to organize our lives in the coming new year. Favorite. Ad. Ever. (Where can I get a Sven?!)

January is often the month when folks make resolutions. My husband isn't much of a "resolutions" guy. Why write down a bunch of things that most likely aren't going to happen?

He has a point. None of us needs a dose of shame at the end of the year when we find the "list." However, that doesn't stop me from making my January list. (And my February list, and my March list…)

I can't seem to help myself. I write things down in journals, on dry erase boards, sticky notes, and on the desktop of my computer e.g.: list.janfeb. or THE LIST.WINTER. (If it is in CAPS, will I pay better attention?)

I am grateful that in the new year, we are given the opportunity to start anew —the blank page, the possibility of adventure and joy. It takes a certain amount of optimism to look toward the new year with hope these days.

There are so many things that feel out of our control, so much that seems to threaten the well-being of the earth, of our children, of light over the darkness, of love over hate.

I read recently that optimism is not (as we are often told) about whether we see the glass as half full rather than half empty. A true optimist is a person who is able to see the world as it really is, "visualizes how they might become better, and then takes action to make them so." (James, 2014)

So, even though I am not blessed with a "Sven" to keep me on the right path, I will continue to make my lists. I choose to be an optimist in a world filled with anxiety and scarcity.

And, although it would be great to eat healthier, exercise, and be better at prioritizing, I think maybe the top of the list will look something like this: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. If I get those three down, maybe I'll start that novel! How about you?

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