Before New Year’s Day, the TV, radio and Internet are filled with ads for losing weight, joining a gym, quitting smoking and other ways of making a fresh New Year’s start. And who among us DOESN’T quietly make at least a few promises? Such is the important power of a new year and the need for new beginnings.
This is all well and good, but all the statistics say most of us will not last more than a month or so. “Ah, human nature,” we say, as we quietly reprimand ourselves and usually give up. But there is another choice, exemplified by the 50-year-old TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
A couple of years ago another Wellspring facilitator and I created the Sunday service over New Year’s weekend using this story as our metaphor.
In the story, Charlie Brown grows disgusted with the commercialization of the holiday. When Charlie Brown’s friends laugh at his decrepit tree, Linus saves the day by explaining the deeper meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown is inspired. He vows, like many of us do on New Year’s Day, to begin anew. He looks to the stars, and says, “I won’t let all this commercialization ruin MY Christmas.” But then he stops at Snoopy’s gaudily decorated doghouse and plucks one red ornament for his tree. The tree droops, and Charlie Brown exclaims, “I’ve killed it!” And dejectedly walks away, abandoning his fresh start.
As you probably recall, it’s Charlie Brown’s Peanuts community that comes to his aid. Linus says, “I never thought the tree was that bad. Maybe it just needs a little love.” He wraps his blanket at the base. His friends see what has happened and they all join to decorate the tree beautifully. Charlie Brown returns in surprise, joy, and renewed faith, and they all join in song at the end.
What caught my attention that feels relevant for New Year’s resolutions is that Charlie Brown’s initial inspiration from Linus on stage wasn’t enough to maintain his new beginning. He headed out into the starlit night but needed his Peanuts community to help out when he hit his bump in the road – a too-heavy tree ornament.
Our Wellspring groups offer this kind of community. They are places to make promises anew for the coming year. But more importantly, when we waver and fall short, maybe in January or February, these communities provide a non-judgmental love that allows us to confess our humanness, but, like Charlie Brown, give our resolution another try. We need the help of those who love us. And THAT is the gift of a broken New Year’s resolution. Where will your community be?