By Vernon A. Williams
For some people, 2019 was one of the best years of their life. For others, it was a nightmare that never ended. Probably a majority of folk experienced major ups and downs with most times falling somewhere in the middle.
Two things are certain. The first is, if you are reading this particular column right now, you owe God the praise for getting you through the year. The second thing is, no matter how good, bad or indifferent 2019 was for you – it’s over.
Celebrating good fortune has a short shelf life because you don’t know what awaits you around the next corner. Likewise, lamenting misfortune is similarly pointless because what is done is done; scripture says worry is unproductive and conflicts with faith.
So, we seek this place we can refer to as equilibrium – the capacity to relish the good life and endure suffering without yielding too far in either direction. One thing is certain, you will never get to the next chapter of your story if you keep re-reading the last.
In case you are wondering, yes I practice what I preach. In 2019, my brother Bruce lost his wife Josie on a Wednesday in March. I was at church in Indianapolis silently grieving his pain when I received a text from my nephew Derek in Fairview Heights, IL. telling me that his mother – my sister Joyce – had just passed away.
Suddenly this family was coping with the loss of two loved ones within four days. It would not end there.
Six months later, my oldest brother, Willie Jr. of Moss Point, Mississippi, died after a lingering physical struggle resulting from gunshot wounds 10 years earlier that left him quadriplegic.
In a family of talkers, Willie Jr. was arguably the most verbose and certainly the best read. Whenever we’d get off the phone after a couple of hours of conversation, he would invariably say something to the effect, “Next time call me when you’ve got more time to really talk.” He was serious. I miss his wisdom, wit and perspectives.
On the flip side, attending my brother’s home-going, the Will- iams’ clan was introduced to a side of the family most never knew existed. Prior to Willie Jr.’s injuries, he adopted a Korean family that came to America with little more than their hopes and aspirations. He took care of them and they fondly called him, grandpa.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. All these years later, these personable and bright immigrants are all grown up. One is in medical school student, another is a finance investor; one is an entrepreneur and another pursuing a career in law. They credit my brother with taking them from despair to unlimited possibilities. Now we all are inextricably connected as family.
In 2019, my beautiful 50-something niece Janine jumped the broom for the first time in an idyllic sun-bathed lagoon-front Marquette Park Pavilion ceremony. Her year was made even better by the fact that her three brilliant children – Jade, Justin and Jules – were all officially done with college and transitioned into exciting career starts.
Beyond the health and welfare of my family, 2019 was significant for me in other ways. With a team of professional theater artists, God blessed me to write and produce a successful play titled “The Price of Progress: The Indiana Avenue/IUPUI Story.” We enjoyed eight performances, including four headlining the Indianapolis 2019 OnyxFest designed to showcase Black playwrights.
On another personal tip, being more accustomed to the thankless world of journalism, I was surprised and humbled to receive three significant awards last year. The first was from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The second was from the Gary chapter of the education sorority Phi Delta Kappa. The third came from the Indianapolis Record-Indiana Magazine. To God be the glory!
Year-end reflection is never complete with assessing what God has or hasn’t done for you. But it is more important to review what you have done for the Lord. No not going to church, praying the loudest and longest, Holy Ghost dancing or speaking in tongues; not racing the aisles of the sanctuary at warp speed or thirsting for attention from pastors and parishioners for every ministry you served. It should be deeper.
The Bible says that in the end, only what you do for Christ will matter. Your righteousness may endear those closest to you but you can’t impress God. Any talent for which you may be recognized, He gave it to you. Jesus knew not only what you were capable of but what you would do or not do long before the situation presented itself.
That makes achieving that equilibrium of which we spoke earlier even more important. Don’t cry a river over your circumstance of what was unaccomplished. And don’t waste too much time reveling in personal achievements – indulging in the sound of your own voice. Jesus said what you’ve done for the least of His people, you do for Him.
As we look into the future, if the Lord says the same, I won’t even get into resolutions because some people loathe them like the very thought is evil, while others list them prolifically while they disappear into the atmosphere as the years wear on and life happens.
Resolutions are okay but not necessary. As you approach the prospect of 2020 possibilities, just do what you should actually strive for on a daily basis, anyway. That is, embody that prayer life, walk by faith, and commit to works that, in a single simplistic but meaningful sense, embodies one overarching thought; that is tell the Lord and yourself every day of the year: “I want to do better.”
That says it all. Happy New Year!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.