Having the years seem to go by faster and faster is a sign of age I am told. December whizzed by with lots of food and drink in D.C. and a few great days seeing good friends in New York. Soon the crystal ball will drop in Times Square signaling it’s 2014 and I will be a year older, maybe not wiser, but older nonetheless.
My contemporaries who connect over the holidays naturally ask, “How are you feeling?” That usually leads to a lengthy diatribe about various aches and pains and ends with, “But isn’t it great we’re still alive?” After those conversations I’m thankful for my younger friends who haven’t yet reached the stage in their life where that discussion is the norm.
This has been a good year for me and thankfully for so many of my friends. But the holiday spirit means taking a moment to think of those less fortunate. While the economy is better, too many people are still unemployed or stuck in menial and underpaying jobs. We should celebrate that in 18 states and D.C., with the recent additions of New Mexico and Utah, same-sex couples can marry. Yet, at the same time we are making great progress in gaining LGBT rights, in Russia, India and Australia things are moving backwards. We should celebrate nearing the end of the war in Afghanistan and that young men and women who have been in harm’s way will be coming home. This year saw a real chance to end the Syrian war and stop the bloodshed and even possible openings in our relationship with Iran. But clearly vigilance will be required in both countries if we are to be successful.
This year the world lost a true hero when Nelson Mandela died. But his memorial service provided the opportunity that President Obama took to shake hands with Cuban President Raoul Castro, which could lead to a thaw in relations with Cuba. This year we learned some disturbing things about the NSA from Edward Snowden, who released information on the extent of our government’s spying operations. But while I am glad that is now in the open I think Snowden should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows as a traitor for how he did what he did.
Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s man of the year for taking a much more rational position on what the church should focus on and yet Catholic schools continue to fire LGBT teachers. The Advocate also named him man of the year and to me that was like giving President Obama his Nobel Peace Prize in the hope he would do something to deserve it. Clearly Edie Windsor would have been a better choice for their person of the year.
We reached the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination and were reminded that it was 53 years ago that we elected the first Catholic president. It took us another 47 to elect the first African American and many hope it will take a lot less until we inaugurate our first woman president.
As we look toward celebrating the New Year it is also the time to think about all those charities that do good work here at home and around the world. Time to look at the bank account and determine how much you can donate to the causes or groups that need money to continue their work. Remember you still have a few days to make donations and deduct them on your 2013 taxes so the government is actually contributing a percentage of what you give.
I always start by writing checks (yes, I still write checks) to Whitman-Walker Health, MetroTeen AIDS, SMYAL, US Helping US, UNICEF, and the Southern Poverty Law Center among others. I think of my parents who escaped the Nazis and my father’s parents who I never met because they died in Auschwitz as I write my check to the Holocaust Museum. I remember my mom as I write that check to hospice, which took such good care of her when she was dying.
We all have our favorite charities that mean something to us or our loved ones. What’s important is that we give generously to those causes in which we believe. It helps to remember that they depend on us as much as they depend on our neighbors.
As 2013 comes to a close there is optimism in the air. Our troops are coming home; the economy is improving even if not quickly enough; and even Brian Boitano, the figure skater, and the British diver Tom Daley finally came out. May you all have sweet dreams into the New Year and dream about kissing that someone you love or want to love under a bough of mistletoe.