Doctors notebook - How we can all make 2012 a better year

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The night has passed, the day lies open before us.

Those very simple words are found at the start of morning prayer which is said at the beginning of each day in the Church of England. They have come to mind because they, whether you are religious or not, have meaning for us all at the start of this New Year.

The night has passed – the previous year is over – not to be forgotten, but we can and must begin the new year. Note, I used the word ‘begin’ rather than ‘look forward to’, so many of us will be wondering just what 2012 will bring. Trepidation, fearful, might be more appropriate words. We certainly will not be more prosperous, in any case I always hated the phrase, ‘I wish you a prosperous new year,’ as if prosperity is all we yearn for. So the day lies open before us, the year begins, it is like a book open before us with empty pages waiting to be filled, and filled they will be.

It is difficult to make plans when times are difficult but there are so many things we can do with every new day that lies before us in 2012. Some people talk about our broken society, I disagree but it is cracked and we do need to do something and that something has nothing to do with money or resources.

We can talk to each other for starters and we can listen too. When we listen to each other we are respecting each other. When we respect each other we are not necessarily saying we agree. We need to be more tolerant of other people’s lives, stop blaming, recognize the good before we criticize the bad. We need to stop throwing verbal stones because even verbal stones hurt. We do not need money to be able to support and care for, and about, each other. When people are in trouble we do not need to know what to say but we do need to be there for them, alongside.

The day lies open before us, every new day gives us the opportunity to stop thinking about ourselves and think about others instead.

With each new day we carry memories with us from the previous day and I am carrying one overriding memory into 2012. And that memory is the face of a very old lady in one of our nursing homes. We had taken a small choir from our church to sing carols and the choir went into her room to sing for her. Her memory had long since gone and she spoke very few words, but as the choir sang she broke into song – word perfect.

Where did that come from? Memories buried deep within her, waiting to be unlocked. And then to cap it all she broke into a smile, a smile so broad, so wonderful that it will carry me, and those who sang, way beyond the end of this new year.