the receiving end of that greeting will reply, “What’s so good about
it?” They grumble the words a bit as if to add emphasis to the
underlying unspoken message that could be expressed as, “You have no
idea what is going on in my life, but I can tell you right now, it is
NOT GOOD!” Or maybe they are just expressing their everyday view of
life itself, which would sound more like “Who are you to be Little
Miss Cheerful when it’s obvious that there is misery and evil all
around us and I have no reason to believe that today will be any kind
of a good day?”
Wow! you might tell yourself after daring to wish such a one a good
morning! And yet, chances are you’ll throw caution to the wind and
continue to toss out your cheery greeting hither and yon to the
various and sundry people you meet as you go through your ordinary
days, in the ordinary flow of your ordinary life. Ordinarily.
But eventually we come to the end of a year, any year; the wind-down
of all those 365 days on which we might have wished someone a “good”
one. The big period at the end of all the days of 2013 is now upon us
and we are faced once again with that standard end-of-year greeting
that takes in the WHOLE of the next year in line.
Oh boy! we can almost say to ourselves, as we ponder what the “What’s
so happy about it?” crowd of greeting-disaffirmers will say as we
cheerily wish them a happy new year. It’s enough to make us want to
keep our cheeriness to ourselves… almost.
And yet, it is precisely those greeting-disaffirmers who need those
greetings most! Oh, they might not need any particular words —
“standard” or even created on the spot just for them — but they might
really need the goodwill behind them, the little bit of time that
someone took on their behalf to aim a happy and cheery greeting right
at them: not as a summation of how they or anyone else views that very
moment, day or period of time at which the greeting is spoken, but as
an expressed desire that the person so greeted will somehow come to
see in all the many circumstances that combine to create the framework
for that particular day or year, an opportunity to look past the
difficulties or trials or sadness that appears to be so prominent, to
the bits of sunshine already there, waiting to be recognized as a balm
for the soul that such bits can really be.
So I say, Out with it! Greet anyone you feel so inclined to greet —
especially the unhappy or the grumpy — with your cheery “Happy New
Year!” Perhaps it will spark a “What’s so happy about it”?
conversation, during which you can suggest the many ways in which one
might count one’s blessings, be they ever so humble and even invisible
to the naked eye. For starters, if we are able to hear the greeting,
it obviously presupposes one is alive. And life is nothing if it is
not change and opportunity for change. What appears to be the end of
the world today, can be the start of a new life tomorrow. What looks
like a disaster right this minute might well be the impetus toward a
change you’ve been hesitant to make, but since it is now thrust upon
you, you must take that step and heaven only knows how you’ll feel
about it next year at this time.
We all know about the “miracle of change” — how living through the
misery of one thing can often bring us into the joy of something else
that would never have been were it not for going through the pain. And
yes, we probably have all had such events in our lives — if we have
not held on to the misery part and chose to open our eyes to see the
new joy instead.
Many years ago, I had a dear friend whose husband chose to end his
life. He chose to end it, but his plan did not work. He did not die.
He suffered greatly, however, from the actions he took to make that
end happen. His physical body would never again be the same. What
good, one might ask, could possibly come out of that? How could such a
situation lead to anything better than the situation that led him to
such a would-be fatal choice in the first place?
I am far from an expert on anything, let alone the reasons behind
someone’s choice to end their life, yet when the death-plan fails,
something amazing happens: the person who failed has a chance to
explain the reasoning behind it — if at last he can bring himself to
face his life and speak the truth. Such was the case with my friend’s
husband. Because he felt trapped in a marriage that he believed could
never be fixed, a marriage that caused him ongoing and daily pain on
so many levels, he was living a false and insincere life of
“everything’s fine,” and no one knew the depths of his internal
despair. His wife did not have a clue. His friends did not have a
clue. Heaven only knows why some people cannot bring themselves to say
the marriage is over and use the generally accepted and legal option
of divorce over choosing instead to bring their own life to an end.
From a distance, whether in time or proximity, we can always say, “Why
didn’t he talk to her about it?” How easy for us to ask that question.
But such sorrows and miseries run deep, and often the person suffering
is more than embarrassed that he can’t even fix his own problem. Such
people feel internally alone and practically beyond consolation —
although no one knows the depth of their despair.
But the good news is that he lived. He was able to tell his wife about
his true feelings. He was able to be genuine, sincere, at last. She
listened. He was able to heal his feelings. She was able to forgive
him for everything she felt he had done to hurt her. They became
friends. He was able to soothe all the pain in his soul.
One of the things that surfaced during all this healing was that he
stated he wished he had had someone to talk to — someone who would not
judge him, who would just listen. Many people we pass on the street or
see in our ordinary life have similar feelings, even if not severe
enough to lead them to want to end their life. But we do not know it
because they are suffering in silence. Can you imagine how they would
feel if all they wanted was a kind word or one person in their whole
day who would show that they cared the tiniest bit — and yet they
received no such thing?
There have been times that a person I sat next to on the bus would
tell me that they so appreciated our little conversation, or that I
reminded them of their mother or a friend from their past, and that
that little bit of shared time was the highlight of their day. I had
to sit on the bus anyway; I had the time anyway; and I can’t imagine a
better way to spend “anyway” time than by sharing it with a fellow
When I wish anyone a “Happy New Year,” they are not just words I say
that go without meaning. I care about the person’s state of being; I
wish for them the ability to see the tiniest rays of sunshine that are
present on even the darkest of days; I offer whatever moments of my
time that person might need to express back to me their reason for not
being happy; I am happy to be wherever I am, doing whatever I need or
want to do, and still be cheerful to all those I meet. My wish is an
uplifting one, a note of cheer and caring and brotherly love.
My wishing everyone a Happy New Year is that kind of wish. May no one
who reads these words ever feel that alone and that unhappy that they
think about choosing to not be around for another day. But if they do
think about it, I hope they will find a person with a kind word and
time to listen to their unhappy heart.
Happy New Year to one and all!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.