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For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
-Robert Burns

 

Another year has come, gone, and come again. As we bid farewell to 2017 and turn our thoughts towards 2018, we begin to reflect on the same questions we faced at the start of last January:

 

What will we seek to change about ourselves and our lives this year? What can we do to become better family members, friends, and individuals? How can we make a difference to those around us?

 

Perhaps this seems a little philosophical for a holiday so often marked by workout pledges, diet fads, and popped champagne bottles – and for some, it might be. But for me, the New Year stands as an opportunity for endless change, joy, and reflection. I’m brought back to those precious hours on New Year’s Eve when we gather to pass the moments to midnight with our friends and family and sing that old folk song, Auld Lang Syne, to welcome the new year and farewell the old.

 

If you’ve ever been to a town-wide New Year’s celebration or party you’ve probably heard the piece and sung the lines you could pick up from the crowd – even if you didn’t know the lyrics or the song’s name. I’ll admit, I love the piece, but even I hum through some of the trickier verses. But memorized or not, the song’s message is ¬†beautiful; based on an old Scottish poem, Auld Lang Syne calls for remembrance for old friends, and goes in chorus: “For auld lang syne/my dear/for auld lang syne/we’ll take a cup of kindness yet/for auld lang syne.” Sung or read, this sounds lovely – but without a full understanding of its meaning, the nuance of the song’s message doesn’t fully resonate. “Auld lang syne” translates to: “for the sake of old times.” The song wasn’t transcribed with the intent of becoming a New Year’s tune – and yet, it fits perfectly.

 

At 11:59 on New Year’s Eve, we stand in wait for the clock to tick past the year. But even as the ball drops and corks pop, the friends we made and experiences we shared in the year before remain with us. We make resolutions to take up jogging or give up chocolate; to reinvent ourselves and be better than we were in the year before. But perhaps the change we need isn’t reinvention, but reflection. For the sake of old times, old friends, and old selves, we need to move forward with optimism and care for ourselves and others. This is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the old year as much as welcome the possibilities to come; we have the chance to spark new friendships and rekindle those we’ve allowed to fade. ¬†In that spirit, I hope that as we move into 2018, we can build on the foundations we set and share that cup of kindness with friends old and new alike.