Let’s Make 2023 Better
The new year dawns against a backdrop of sorrow and heroism, criminality and selfless action. A Pope is dead; the Pope will bury him. A horrific war rages; the Ukrainian people rise, undaunted by each new terror. A President faces potential criminal indictment at the recommendation of Congress; a man in a blizzard in Buffalo, turned away from a dozen homes, finds shelter by breaking into a school and saves 20 other lives.
On Thursday, January 6, Pope Francis will preside over the funeral of retired Pope Benedict XVI who died on Saturday. I will write a separate blog about Pope Benedict later this week. How will his passing influence the Church in 2023?
In Ukraine, the horrors perpetrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin seem unending, and yet, he is losing badly because of the indomitable spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and their leader Volodymyr Zelensky. Will 2023 bring victory to Ukraine?
Former President Donald Trump — oh, where to begin? — became the first president that Congress has recommended for criminal indictment, but it’s up to the Justice Department to act. Meanwhile, Congress released Trump’s tax returns, so shameful — most of us pay more in taxes than he did since 2016 at least, and most of us give more to charity than he did. Will 2023 see justice come for Trump at long last?
Jay Withey, a common man, a 27 year-old mechanic, got caught in the Buffalo blizzard that killed nearly 40 people — but he saved lives through quick thinking, breaking into a nearby school and helping others get to the shelter; police and the school superintendent hailed him as a hero. He took a big risk to help save others — would we do the same in 2023?
We live in a time that can easily evoke despair and selfishness — who among us hasn’t just turned off the news because it’s too much to bear? Individually, most of us have no idea what to do about Ukraine, and we know from long experience that no matter how much some of us might rail against Trump, many others will praise him and he is just as likely as ever to escape consequences for behaviors that would have landed any of the rest of us in a very secure prison long ago.
But while it is not our job, in 2023 or ever, to solve Ukraine or make Trump go away for a long time, it IS our job to be agents of peace, of justice, of hope and charity.
It IS our job as educators to teach — and to teach well and vigorously — about the necessary conditions for democracy to thrive, about the dangers of authoritarianism, about the consequences of wars not only for one country but for the entire community of nations.
It IS our job as educators to teach about ethics and truth, to expect our students to manifest honesty, to impose consequences for lies and cheating.
It IS our job to show students the exemplars of courage, selflessness, heroism so that they can study and learn how to do the same. Such values are not merely good secular traits in polite society (remember that?), but rather, they are essential qualities for living and acting according to the principles of social justice.
We can and must teach our students the real meaning of social justice — to stand up for human life and dignity, to work in community, to live in solidarity with those who need us, especially the poor and vulnerable of this earth, to resist exploitation of workers, to care for the environment.
Can we make 2023 better? Yes! We can, we must. We need to plan our lessons in education for justice each day, extending welcome and hospitality to each person we encounter, discerning the conditions that cause conflict and sorrow, helping our students to move away from danger to themselves and their families, opening every opportunity for them to find shelter, comfort and peace in our classrooms and corridors, in all that we do at Trinity.
No, we cannot change what’s going on elsewhere. But we can be darn sure that what goes on right here at Trinity is an example to the world of how to live with charity, hope, justice and peace.
Happy new year!