TCS Daily

A New Year's Revolution

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - December 31, 2004 12:00 AM

All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.

-- James Russell Lowell, 1870

Forget New Year's resolutions. You won't keep them and you know it.

How about a little revolution in your life?

On New Year's Day or in the first week of the year do something good, no matter how small, for someone else, and do it without them -- or anybody else -- knowing about it.

It's that simple.

It can be something for your kid, or your wife, or a neighbor, somebody you know at work, or somebody you don't know at all. It doesn't matter. Just do something nice and have the satisfaction of knowing that only you and God know the details.

You don't have to get into some mantra of self discipline. You don't have to consult a self-help book. You don't need to renew your gym membership.

Just do something.


The challenge, and the joy, of this thing is in arranging its anonymity.

Look around you. It won't take long to identify some real need that you can meet for someone. Maybe you've always had a charitable impulse. Great. And look, sending a contribution to help victims of the tsunamis is a no-brainer right now. What we're talking about here is much more "one-on-one," much more personal.

Shovel the snow off someone's walk when they're away. Slip some cash into an envelope and secretly get it into the hands of somebody who could sure use it. Write a note to someone who could use a little encouragement or uplift.

Gee, if you have to start small, stuff a couple quarters in someone else's parking meter.

For most of us this will be a revolutionary thing. We all want some reward, some feedback, some satisfaction for what we do.

And if you're of cynical bent, you can agree with H.L. Mencken's observation that "a large part of altruism, even when it's perfectly honest, is grounded upon the fact that it is uncomfortable to have unhappy people about one." Fine.

Let's not get all teary and wobbly at the knees about this. You don't have to embark on a campaign of self reform. Just make a pure act of good outside yourself.

Don't speculate on it. Don't wring your hands about whether you could have done more, or about what the ultimate effect of your altruism might be.

Just let the good thing, once done, be. Happy New Year!


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